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III. PROGRESS AS VALUE . . . . . 28 *" 




DETERMINISM . . . . . 37 












I. CUSTOM-THOUGHT . . . . . .69 

II. POWER-THOUGHT . . . . . .78 

III. THE CONFLICT .. . . . . . 85 

6 . V : . CONTENTS 

CHAPTER j J ** t -* * * 1 < PAGE 









III. PAX ROMANA . . . . . . . 14! 





















HI. 'CORRUPTION' ...... 309 





V. MORALS AND BELIEF . . . . . . 33 












The Making of Humanity 





a ra Seiva Kovley avdpunrov Cety6repoy ire\et. 


THE intellectual revolution of the nineteenth century has 
transformed our conceptions of human history in much 
the same manner as the intellectual revolution of the 
seventeenth century changed our view of the cosmic 
universe. Like the Ptolemaic world our notions concern- 
ing the career of our race were miserably stunted, dingy, 
and mean. The date 4004 B.C. was gravely accepted 
as the boundary of our retrospect ; and long before 
reaching back to it the ' conventional fable ' of history 
which, like the primitive epic whence it evolved, was 
chiefly concerned with racial, dynastic, and religious 
edification, faded into pure legend and mythology. As 
when awakening science crashed through the tinsel vaults 
of puerile cosmologies, discovering the sun-strewn in- 
finities amid which speeds our quivering earth-speck, so 
have the mists of legend lifted before her radiant 
progress, and it is given us to view the panorama 
of man's long and wonderful career in something 
of its natural perspective and proportion. Those 
ages once peopled with the myths and monsters 
of fable now show down the vista of teeming nations 
our own culture in the making, Europa that is to be, 

borne on forked -prowed Cretan galleys that seam, from 



Nile-land and ygean shores to Italy and Spain, the 
midland sea ; jingling donkey- caravans that bear from 
the Twin Rivers, through the realm of the pig- tailed 
Hittite to the Eiixine and Phrygia, the freight of a 
culture that reaches back beyond Archbishop Usher's 
date of the creation of the world. Ten thousand years 
before it came westering to Sumer we see the Magda- 
lenians decking with frescoes and inscriptions their 
temple -caves, and weirdly dancing their rites accoutred 
in the masks of beasts, prototypes of those which Attic 
maidens shall don at the shrine of Artemis Brauronia r 
and of those through whose brazen mouths shall be 
chanted the lapidary lines of ^Eschylean choruses. Yet 
even that savage culture of the last ice-age is but a 
mature fruit, the culmination of successive eras of slow; 
growth computed by hundreds of thousands of years. 
Beyond stretch aeons of time as unseizable to our 
imagination as are the distances of sidereal space. 

Transferred to the open vastness of those expanses 
the entire perspective, the meaning itself of history is 
changed . As| in the geocentric theory,, our view was not 
merely untrue ; it was an accurate inversion of the truth . 
The career of mankind was currently conceived as one 
of continuous degeneration. Savages, instead of being 
regarded as surviving vestiges representing the condition 
of primitive humanity, were held to be the descendants of 
once noble and civilized races who had, by an inevitable 
law of hurrian nature, lapsed into miserable degradation. 
The Past was the repository of virtue and lost wisdom ; 
it stood exalted in proportion to its antiquity above the 
puny Present ; and the, chief function of historical study 
was to hold up the excellences of our distant forbears 
as a paradigm to; a (waning age. 

It is only a matter of a generation or two since 
those quaint views became untenable, and the dust of 
the last rear-guard actions is hardly laid. In his great 
work on Primitive Culture Sir Edward Tylor devotes 
a lengthy chapter to the considerate and painstaking 
refutation of the ' theory of degeneration,' and he has 
in the course of it occasion to cite long and hot passages 
in its defence from distinguished contemporaries, and 


indignant onslaughts on the hypothesis of progress. 
Tylor's book was published in 1871. One of the noblest ' 
and most fearless thinkers of 'the last century, Carlyle, 
feeling keenly, as do all earnest and generous spirits, 
the faults and follies of the world about him, could 
perceive no higher aspiration to be set as an ideal before 
the Present than the emulation and imitation of the 
Past. And the past period which he selected as a 
model and exemplar was the thirteenth century ! The 
notion of progress, of the " perfectibility of the species " 
was the butt of his most scornful sarcasms. 

It is now currently known that the human world has 
risen out of barbarism and animality, that its dawn light 
shines on no heroic or golden ages, but on nightmares 
to make us scream in our sleep. During an incalculable 
period of time our ancestors were savages ruder and more 
brutal than the primitive races whose fast dying rem- 
nants still survive. Man's life was, as Hobbes surmised, 
" poor, nasty, brutish, short." The first pathetic totterings 
of culture were only attained through a tale of ages com- 
pared to which the whole name-and-date period is of neg- 
ligible amplitude. Fire, cattle-herding, weaving, pottery, 
tillage, the metals, horse-taming, and the going down 
to the sea in ships of men with hearts of treble brass, 
were world-shaking discoveries and adventures which, at 
millenniums of interval, commoved a bewildered humanity 
which found itself raised one 'giddy step above the brute. 
Those tremendous revolutions were crowded in the last 
few hundred thousand years. During the greater part 
of its existence the human race has roamed the wild 
earth among other animal herds, differing but little from 
them in its mode of life, driven by the same exigencies 
and pressures, by climate, by cold and drought. Its 
mentality was not essentially different ; the first faint 
glimmers of thought oppressed almost as much as they 
aided it ; man was urged by the self -same impulses as 
all other animality which : he was only imperceptibly 

The notion of human progress, but dimly and fugi- 
tively prefigured here and there by the thought 
of various ages, that conception which the doctrinaire 



enthusiasm of the eighteenth century, the faith* of 
a Condorcet under the very knife of the guillotine, 
had proclaimed in the same abstract and imaginative 
manner as it drew fancy-pictures of * primitive society,' 
has from the domain of philosophizing theory and pious 
opinion passed to that of scientific description. From 
the accumulated results of biology and geology, from the 
archeological exhumation of the past, from prehistorical 
and anthropological research, the speculative doctrine 
emerges whatever disputes and castigations may gather 
round its interpretation as a witnessed^ concrete fact. 
A fact which, instead of l^eing the expression of a faith, 
is itself the source of a new faith and inspiration. 

For the first shudder of false shame which, as is 
usual in such cases, greeted 'the blunt^ disclosure of our 
origins, gives place to a feeling of wonder and exulta- 
tion, of tenderness and inspiring hope, as in the path 
pursued by the human race from its lowly emergence 
we perceive the unceasing march of a continuous and 
marvellous growth, age-long indeed if measured by our 
common standards of time, but in truth more rapid and 
mighty in its achievements than the whole foregoing 
evolution of animal life. The entire world of human 
things as it exists to-day, with its marvels and its powers, 
its good and also its evil, is the product of that 
evolution. Its elements did not .make their appearance at 
one bound, they did not come to man from another sphere, 
nor were they found by him as an integral part of the 
world in which he was born ; but developed by little and 
little from the crudest beginnings. ' And since thus all 
human things are man-made, since bur world is the out- 
growth of the most primitive and rudest human com- 
munities, every step of the intervening progress is the 
fruit of human effort, of human labour, and human 
courage ; every inch of that advance has been wrested by 
mari at the cost of suffering and devotion, and against a 
mountain-mass of difficulties, the overwhelming nature of 
which only a close analysis can reveal, from the dark 
chaos of brutality and nescience. 

* Man is descended from the monkeys/ That used 
to be, and is still in some quarters, the uproariously 


droll anticlimax of the law of evolution apart from being 
the one supernatant statement of that fundamental law 
of life which had reached the apprehension of the semi- 
educated multitude. It was the manifest reductio ad 
absurdum, and the most irresistible pelting weapon for 
Oxford bishops wherewith to slay the nascent revelation 
with ridicule. Even the most ardent protagonists of the 
new doctrine felt somewhat embarrassed by a fact in- 
susceptible of being stated without a broad grin, or 
at least a humorous twinkle of the eye. How could 
one speak of monkey ancestors with beseeming gravity? 
It behoved us to have recourse to all manner of shame- 
faced, apologetic circumlocutions, to devise euphemistic 
phrases in order to refer to the fact with some show of 
decorum. ' Man, of course, is not descended from 
the monkeys not, at least, from monkeys now living, ob- 
viously but from extinct pithecoid progenitors-; not from 
any ape, but from some anthropoid common ancestor of 
living primates and living men.' An intractable, un- 
couth, grotesque fact. Such are the fruits of material- 
istic science, destructive of all poetry and sentiment. 

Well ! speaking with strictest accuracy, there is not 
in the entire universe of known facts one so purely 
venerable, so wholly sublime in its grandeur as that 
same grotesque fact. Not the Kantian wonders, not 
the starry heavens, not the conscience. The starry 
heavens that other rude blow of Unsentimental science 
to human dignity are merely big. The conscience, in so 
far as it is not a convenient name for prejudices, is 
but a fragment of the larger portent. The self -creation 
of the progeny of the ape, by the sole operation of his 
inherent qualities and powers, by the unfolding of what 
was in him, the ape, the brute, the beast, the savage, 
unaided by any external power, in the face of the buffets 
of hostile nature, of the intractabilities of his own con- 
stitution, into MAN, the demi-god, the thinker, the de- 
viser, the aspirer after truth and justice, greater in his 
achievements and his ideals than all the gods he is 
capable of conceiving if there is a fact before which 
we may truly bow in solemn reverence and silent wonder^ 
it is that. 


The marvel of man, the essential transcendency of 
the ' thinking reed ' over all the patible qualities of 
what he contemplates, is among the cheap common- 
places of meditative thought. But that supreme prodigy 
is itself removed to an immeasurably loftier plane of 
sublimity, when it is perceived no longer as a bestowed 
and privileged endowment, as a stolen fire, an illapse from 
a transhuman sphere ; but as the achievement, the built - 
I up product, the slowly, painfully, and toilsomely wrought 
\ creation of his own effort. The transcendency of the 
human worlcTHarKT ot human worth is not merely the 
privilege of man, it is his work. To the sublimity of 
the thing itself is superadded~the far greater sublimity 
of its production. Those qualities and powers, those 
devotions, those enthusiasms, those heroisms, those aspi- 
rations, the sanctities of justice and self-sacrifice, that 
mighty creative spirit which has brought forth art, poetry, 
eloquence, Parthenons, Odysseys, Giocondas, Hamlets, 
that masterful intellect which sits over the world, which 
harnesses its forces and transforms it, that sacred flame 
which rises above life and defies death, defies wrong, 
defies falsehood, wills right, is loyal to truth all that 
man is, has been, and aspires to be, is the accumulated 
product of a quality and power inherent in himself, which 
has wrought from the lowest and dimmest rudiments, 
pursued unresting ly 4i the gradual paths of an aspiring 
change," built and created that dignity which sets him 
on equal terms with all the sublimities of the universe. 
In the pathetic life of that^ ill-favoured Caliban with 
the ungainly stooping form, the muzzle of a gorilla, the 
melancholy light in his eyes, lacking the force and dignity 
of the lion or the grace of the gazelle, there was that 
which, even as a rudiment, wrought and brought forth 
such fruits. He was a little lower than the beasts, he 
made himself a little higher than the angels. 

And the same indwelling power that has brought about 
that prodigy, that has created man out of the brute, 
did not stop there. It has never ceased to be at work, 
to pursue the same creative task, to soar upwards on the 
same path of transfiguring, exsurgent evolution. It dwells 
in man, it is at work in him to-day. The wonder of 


it is no less great in one part of the creative process 
than in any other, in the birth of modern civilization than 
in the birth of man. That the brute-ape should b'e 
the father of thinking man, that is a prodigy ; that the 
gibbering savage should be the father of the Periklean 
Greek, that also is a prodigy, ; that the tenth century 
should be the father of the twentieth century, that is 
no less a prodigy. 

We are wont at times to think what a puny, ineffectual 
thing is human life, so fretful and achieving so little, 
ending in disillusion and disappointment, and shame and 
regret, and work left undone, " a tale told by an idiot." 
Welll behold the aggregate result, the accumulated 
deposit, the net resultant of the lowliest and humblest 
human lives 1 That is the actual cash value in the 
universe of those fretful, ineffectual careers the human 
world risen out of chaos. 



Writ large though it be in the story of the race, the 
law of human evolution, of progress, has by no means 
yet established itself as a truism in current thought. 
Far from it. It is still, on the contrary, an acutely 
controversial conception ; one, indeed, which the great 
bulk of current opinion, of current literature is disposed 
to gainsay, to raise innumerable doubts about. The 
' theory of degeneration,' in its old fornu at least, can, 
it is true, no longer be upheld ; it has perforce tacitly 
lapsed into limbo. From Cro-Magnon to modern man 
is clearly and beyond all dispute a process of active 
evolution, of progress, whatever conception we may 



attach to the term. Yet the acceptance of the fact as 
a continuous process, as a law operating throughout 
historic times, from the age of Greece to the present 
day the old myopic range of our historic vision is 
qualified and hedged with all manner of reluctance, 
of doubt, of objection, of downright denial. 

The grounds of that scepticism are numerous and 
diverse. ; rooted, some of them, deep in our very nature, 
some in obscuring circumstances by which the unity 
and form of the process is disguised, some in difficulties 
of thought inherent in the conception itself. 

Are we entitled to pronounce any rjrojcess progressive? 
Change we know, evolution, we know more or less, 
but progress? When Heracleitos proclaimed the uni- 
versal flux, that all things everlastingly change and 
become, that we do not bathe twice in the same river 
of experience, he by no means enunciated a law of evo- 
lution, still less did he testify to progress . Even when to 
the perception of merte change we have added the further 
fact that each successive phase of it is determined by 
the foregoing, that the forms of life in particular are 
thus derived, evolved one from the other in continuous 
sequence, we have, to be sure, gone a step beyond 
the recognition of mere change and perceived a new 
feature of it in the process of evolution ; but we have 
not discovered progress. 

Clearly is not that a valuation which we~ impose upon 
the stream of change, declaring it to be good? " Evolu- 
tion," it has been said, " is a fact, progress is a feeling." 
What title have we to that dynamic optimism pro- 
nouncing that whatsoever becomes, becomes better? Is 
not that but a way of saying that our own particular 
manner and outlook are the standard of all excellence, 
and that what leads thereto is therefore a process of 

Let us suppose that in its infancy our race had 
cherished a profound and unreasonable respect for huonan 
life, and that the various changes since that childlike 
state had eventually led to this, among other results, 


that modern man had come to discover the delicate 
flavour and excellent nutritive qualities, of human flesh, 
and had become an enthusiastic cannibal. We may 
imagine that, under those circumstances, we should look 
down with considerable pity upon the benighted 
barbarians who remained ignorant of the most excel- 
lent and readily available food $ upon our forefathers 
who were insufficiently intelligent to appreciate to the 
full the advice of that man of genius, Dean Swift, 
and to solve in a fundamental manner the problem 
of poverty and the Irish question, while throwing open 
at the same time new sources of enjoyment and eupepsia j 
and we should point with demure pride to. the growth 
of refined taste and discrimination as a clear index 
of our progress. 

That the notion of progress is an aesthetic, an ethical 
valuation, that when we pronounce man to be higher 
than the hog, the thinker better than the savage, the 
just man better than' the cannibal, we are overstepping 
the mere transcription of fact and gassing a moral 
judgmen^is^hardly to be disputed. " But the further, 
question presentlTTtself, "What is Ihe source and sig-'i 
nificance of all valuations? what, !__ any, is their i 

Imagine that you have before you the first gelatinous, 
quivering thing that separated out of the inorganic world 
and became living. Hard put to it though you might 
be to define wherein its livingness consisted, you would 
at once recognize in its behaviour the marks and 
symptoms of that state. It eats, increases, multiplies. 
In the configuration of its energy there are those dis- 
positions, those tendencies or what-not, to do certain 
things that all living creatures are busily employed in 
doing. Or rather, are not all those acts of life, those 
strivings after its maintenance and continuance, varied 
in accordance with the conditions against which it con- 
tends and of which it takes avail, but manifestations of 
one fundamental, though unknown, disposition of living 
stuff, which constitutes its very livingness ? The diversity 
of the acts, limited enough! in so simple a creature, arises 


partly from trie analytic quality of our perception, partly 
from the diversity of stimuli which call them forth. 
They are one and all directed to one end, life, which 
by their failure would cease. On those and on other 
grounds it is more reasonable to regard them as arising 
out of a single disposition, than as a bundle of separate 
* faculties ' or properties existing alongside one another, 
a mosaic of independent characters. But that gelatinous 
speck does more than manifest those acts of life which 
you observe, or those more recondite and complex bio- 
chemical manifestations which go along with them. The 
same disposition of energy which does those things in 
response to the action upon it of the surrounding medium, 
does more. You are in a position to cast your glance 
up and down the perspective of ages, and, watching 
that spot of slime, what do you see? You see it 
! prodigiously budding and changing, and, as in an 
| ArabiarT"~fal^ "assuming varied and strange forms, 
changing into a hydra and a sea-squirt, into a fish 
and into a serpent, into a mole and into a squirrel, 
until at last it fantastically changes into you. 

There is assuredly more in that strange display of 
metamorphosis than a mere orgy of change. It is, as 
much as hunger, procreation, and the other phenomena 
of life, a function ancl character of its being, a mani- 
festation of that disposition wherein life consists. That 
behaviour of living stuff suggests indeed that, even as 
its constitution impels it to feed and increase, so it 
likewise impels it to extend and build up its organi- 
zation in view of some intrinsic need no less imperative 
than hunger. Against tKaF^view, "however, stands the 
\ fact that the amoeba still exists, that not all life has 
/ evolved, that after the inconceivable lapse of time since 
it began its primitive forms survive unchanged, that, 
in its outline at least, the entire series in its various 
stages is represented in coexistent forms at the present 
time. In order to account for that unchanged survival 
we must suppose that only in an infinitesimal proportion 
of living things has the process of evolution taken place, 
that the majority remained to all intents stationary. 
Thus that faculty of development has only come into 


operation as it was elicited by favouring conditions which 
brought into play the intrinsic tendency of life to such 
a process. 

And such a tendency, such a power we know indeed 
to be inherent in all life. To exist at all a living 
thing must be adapted to the exigencies of an environ- 
ment often difficult and hostile. Its energizing, what 
it does, must be done in harmony with conditions im- 
posed upon it by the external medium which exacts 
conformity from every act of life. Feeding, breathing, 
breeding, not only achieve -their end, but do so in relation 
to ambient facts with which they must accord ; to adapt 
its acts is as much a function of life as to perform 
them ; to achieve that adaptation is as much a part 
of its essential mechanism as to .oxygenate its tissues, 
as much an impulse of it as hunger and love. 

The amceba, since it exists, is as much adapted as 
man to external conditions^ But with every adaptive 
change effected in response to the necessity imposed 
or the opportunity offered by those changing conditions, 
an increase in life's powers is brought about ; the field' 
of its faculties, the freedom of their play is extended. 
The fin, the limb and the claw are more widely efficient 
than the pseudopod, the eye than the pigment patch 
or actinic skin, the neuron than the irritability of 
protoplasm. The effect is cumulative. The difference 
between you and the amceba on the stage of your 
microscope is more than a mere difference in adaptation, 
although it is in fact an aspect and a consequence of 
that adjustment. Like the amceba, you contrive to exist JV/- 
in conformity with imposed conditions ; but you do far j ' 
more, you control those conditions ; your activities are 
immeasurablyemancipated, and their range is extended 
out of all knowledge. Most of the difficulties against 
which life in the animalcule struggles and contends are 
for you transcended. Life in you has conquered a 
thousand new environments, proceeded to new spheres 
of action ; the scope and form of its primitive needs, 
its possibilities and goals have been expanded and trans- 
figured. Such has been the constant character of the 
process throughout the series of change, throughout 


evolution. Whether it be essentially the outcome of 
an innate disposition to development, or the summation 
of successive adaptations, the result is in effect the 
same. It is not change alone, it is more even than 
cumulative change 5. it is change in the direction of a, 
constant achievement, the^ increase of the .power of life 
to__cjQntipl^he_j^^ and the conse- 

quent extension of their scope and of that power. 

It is, at a superficial glance, as though from the 
first, life had tended to a pre-appointed goal. But that 
teleological notion is not in accordance with facts. The 
process issues in the vertebrates, in the mammals, in 
humanity, but does not make directly and deliberately 
towards them. Scores, hundreds of utterly different 
types and lines of development have been tried before 
evolution hit upon the vertebrate organization or the 
mammalian brain. The form of the process is not a 
single line, a rising curve, but a thickly congested, 
wide -spreading, straggling, branching tree, in which, for 
one crowning top of success, there are thousands of 
withering boughs, thousands of blind alleys of partial 
success and failure. There is no forecast or forethought 
in the lower stages or at any stage of the series of 
what is to prove its crowning consummation. The 
protozoon was not predestined ; the progress of evolution 
has not been pre-ordained and planned, but groping 
and fumbling. 

Human progress is human evolution. Between it and 
the development of organic life there are, as we shall 
see, differences deep in their nature and momentous in 
their import ; but progress is nevertheless the con- 
tinuation of the same vital process ; its driving force, 
its ultimate tendencies are the same. The disposition 
of living energy which is the moving power of life's 
reaction to ambient conditions in the protozoon, is like- 
wise operative in man, who is, after all, biologically 
considered, but an aggregate of protozoa. In their 
infinite variety and complexities, subtleties and sublima- 
tions, human behaviour, thought, history, achievements, 
and endeavours, have had no_ other spring than the 


original and primordial tendencies which actuate the 
amoeba. Throughout evolution no new impulse has been 
created ; the particularized form in which impulse is 
manifested is alone susceptible of change. For what 
in life we call, at a loss for a better word, * tendency,' 
4 impulse/ has no, specific form. It only becomes 
specified into desire tending to a_concrete goal at 
the call of experience of actual relation, through the 
development oj_ snnsation, of Cognitive perception 
and concepts. It is the motley actuality of that 
cognitive experience which, * like a dome of many 
coloured glass, stains the white radiance ' of life's im- 
mutable eternity. No such particularized form exists 
in the impulse itself ; that is why no idea, no concept, 
no thought, can ever be innate and physiologically trans- 
mitted. The hunger of Tantalus wears the shape of 
the overhanging apple to which his desire is drawn, 
but there is in the fundamental constitution of life no 
desire for apples or for diatoms, no hunger even, or 
any of those appetences which psychologists classify as 
' primary impulses '--; nothing beyond the unspecified 
reaching out of its energy towards its continuance, exer- 
cise, and expansion. The desires that move you or any 
human being, whether for scientific accuracy or 
Beethoven symphonies, for social refortrn or rubber 
shares, for Satsuma ware or philosophy, are but the 
shape and body which the transformations of cognitive 
powers give to the original impulses or say rather 
the original impulse, which actuates the amoeba and 
all life. 

The direction of human evolution and the measure 
of its results are no less identical with those of life/ 
itself than the force that moves them. For man, as ! 
for all life, success, development, progress means 
increased_jcontrol ovex-Jhe conditions of life. That is 
oBvious enough in the case of mechanical progress, in i 
the development of his mastery over the forces of nature, 
from eolithic flints to Handley-Page planes. But to 
the same ultimate object all human activities in what- 
soever aspect, whether as art, thought, religion, ethics, 
politics, are no less definitely directed. By the im- 


measurable expansion of his cognitive powers, the con- 
ditioning environment of life has in man been unfolded 
and diversified into infinite complexities. That environ- 
ment was for rudimentary life comprised in the physical 
and chemical qualities of the fluid it bathed in. To 
human life it has come to mean the universe and its 
problems, the human world and all the new forces which 
it has created, the multiform needs and desires into 
which, in man, the impulses of life have been objectified 
and broken up. And to the conditions of man's develop- 
ment as an individual has been added the most formid- 
able of all tasks : the creation of a new type of polyzoic 
organism, humanity, involving the most complex adjust- 
ments of individual development to that of the larger 
unit. Control over the material conditions of existence \ 
is thus but a small fraction of the task imposed upon 
man by the nature of his powers and the condition of 
their action. It includes all the conditions of human 
life in their infinite and tangled diversity, It is as complex 
and subtly various in its aspects as is human life itself. 
It includes all that man has ever aspired to or desired, 
all that towards which his heart and mind have tended, 
every secret of his wistfulness, every form of his dreams, 
every ideal and every faith, every loadstar, every flame 
of his life. It is towards power of free development, 
power of joy, power of action, power of feeling, power 
of creation, power of understanding, power of co-ordi- 
nation and justice, that human life is perpetually 
reaching out. 

Thus it is that progress is so varied, so complex, so 
elusive a thing, and that it is so commonly obscured 
and misunderstood, because we see in it so many mingled 
forms, so many clashing, seemingly inconsistent ten- 
dencies. It includes the ideals of fifth-century Greece 
and those of twentieth -century America, of ages of 
dream and of ages of science, of intellectual and of 
material power, of hedonism and of self-sacrifice. Those 
Protean aspirations and appetences not only contend 
with one another, they live under the perpetual strain 
of the test of adaptation, of harmony with the actual 
facts of the universe and of life. So that there is an 


evolution, as it were, within an evolution, a struggle h 
for existence among principles, ideas, desires, and '' 
thoughts . 

Hence may we perceive the fallacious futility_pf those 
endeavours tpdefine the determinate nature and quality 
wherein consists the excellence of any phase in the 
process of human progress above the foregoing ; of 
those descriptions of it as a growth in knowledge, or 
material power, or refinement, or morality, by which the 
particular angle of view of the theorist rather than any 
character of the process is illustrated. Any such defini- 
tion is necessarily quite artificial. Every such form 
and character is but a facet of human progress which 
includes them all, and proceeds now in one direction, 
now in another, developing in one phase according to 
one type and ideal, and in another phase according to 
a different and even wholly opposite type. Yet those 
diverse and contradictory ideals all constitute progress 
in so far as they extend in one direction or the other 
the power of human life to control its conditions. They 
continue embodied in the growing whole, a part of its 
living power. It not unfrequently happens in the course 
of the process that some quality appears to become 
lost ; a deterioration in some particular aspect takes 
place, thus offering occasion for misleading comparisons 
which regard that one aspect only. But, like the initial 
sacrifices incident upon the inception of some great 
enterprise, they are only incurred to be repaid a hundred- 
fold, to reappear with fuller power upon a higher plane. 

Human progress does not, any more than does organic 
evolution, lead along a direct line to a teleologically 
pre -appointed goal. In the one case as in the other 
the path of development has been a halting and groping 
one, and any purposive ends have been at most short- 
sighted. Failure has been as common as achievement ; 
so that the path of progress is strewn with tragic ruins. 
It has only been achieved by successive trials and errors, 
errors for the most part wedged at the very foundations 
of man's successive structures, so that their rectification 
has involved wholesale racing and reconstruction. Thus 
we see human progress commonly proceeding by the 



blotting out of civilizations, by the destruction and wreck 
of worlds. 

The old ' philosophies of history,' whicH were con- 
cerned with the ideas of states, of nations, rather than 
of humanity, dwelt chiefly upon the rise and 1 fall of 
successive civilizations, the growth and decay of empires, 
the ebb and flow of culture. Contemporary thought 
is similarly obsessed with the conception of ' cycles ' 
of civilization. It is customary, since the days of Vico, 
to apply to the phenomenon the analogy of an individual 
life, and to describe the rapid expansion as a manifesta- 
tion of youthful vitality and the process of decay as 
one of exhaustion and senility. But those terms are 
in this connection no more than empty and meaningless 
' blessed' words.' They signify nothing. There is no 
ground or indication for the suggestion of any analogy 
between the life of, a ' race l and that of an individual 
unless on the theory that individual ageing consists in 
a gradual clogging of the system by the accumulation 
of its own waste -products and excretions. But animal 
races do not perish through * senility/ but through 
failure of their means of adaptation to cope with 
changing conditions and the competition of more 
efficiently adapted races. Human races and societies 
have constantly renewed their evolutionary powers and 
taken their place in the van of progress, after their 
* senile decay ' had been confidently diagnosed. The 
life of a society as such that is the only point of 
the simile of senility depends upon the free action of 
its excretory functions, upon its power of casting off 
the obsolete, the false and the effete. 

Every form of human organization and culture that 
has hitherto existed represents but a partial and im- 
perfect adaptation to the imposed conditions. It thrives, 
develops in spite of inadaptations ; but the further it 
proceeds the more heavily does the congenital handicap 
tell upon the possibilities of development. Hence a 
time comes when either those inadaptations, those errors, 
those defects, those ' germs oF~decay ' of our philo- 
sophical historians, must be shed, or fhat phase of growth 
come to an end . The society must be remodelled either 


by internal or by external action, and the Penelopean 
web is perpetually cast anew. 

Those crises are a necessary preparation for renewed 
and more effective advance. Progress requires that 
things should occasionally be thrown into the 'melting- 
pot. Even more than the organic proces3 ffuman 
evolution requires the casting off of effete products 
and obsolete structures as much as the building up 
of new ones ; the one process is as much of the essence 
of progress as is the other. Those cataclysms which 
seem to have plunged the world back into chaos, the 
barbaric invasions, the wars which have put out the 
light of the world, threatened to wipe away all, those 
set-backs, those disasters, have invariably sferved the 
ultimate purpose of progress. The law of the race, which 
avails itself of both storm and sunlight, works through 
all accidents, turns catastrophes to account, so that 
they are so fruitful of good, destroying what needs 
destruction, freeing what is imperishable, that some 
have even been deluded into calling them desirable 
and! necessary medicines. 

But and it is this triat starrtpe the whole process 
and makes it possible nothing of the achieved conquests 
of human development is ever lost. Time does not 
devour its children. Civilizations, not civilization, are 
destroyed. That whicft is unadapted perishes, that 
which is adapted is preserved. Trample out Minoan 
culture, it shoots up again in thousandfold splendour 
in the glory of Greece; crush out Greece, the whole 
world is fertilized; give the Roman world up to the 
fury of barbariarr hordes, and the outcome is Modern 
Europe. We see one race stepping into another's place \ ^ 
in the van of the march, but nothing of the continuous / ^ 
inheritance is lost. Every treading down of the seed 
results in a harvest richer than the last. Chaldasan, 
Egyptian, Greek, Roman, European, bear the torch in 
turn ; but the lampadophoria of human progress is 
continuous. In the progress of evolution races and 
nations count for no more than do individuals. Like 
individuals, races, empires, civilizations pass away, but 
humanity proceeds onward. The issue is human 


advance as a Whole, and as it moves we see the separate 
currents tending more and more to fuse into broader 
confluent stream's. For progress is marked not by 
forward motion only, but by an ever increasing 
expansion, continuously tending towards trie inclusion 
of; the entire race within the widening circles of an 
organized correlated growth, towards the creation not 
of brilliant civilizations and p re -eminent cultures, but of 
a greater and higher humanity. i 



To the question, By what title do we dub that evolution 
progress? thus assigning an aesthetic, an ethical value 
to its procedure, declaring it to be good, to be a 
process of betterment, the answer is that such a valuation 
is- that of life itself, and that there exists no other 
ground or significance for any values. Of all such, 
good, bad, high, low, noble, base, life itself, life 
alone is the sole criterion and measure. The reali- 
zation of life's intrinsic impulses constitutes good, 
its failures evil. Whatsoever promotes that realiza- 
tion, the efficiency of the expansion of life's control, 
I is good, whatsoever frustrates and vitiates it is bad. 
That is the only meaning, the only foundation in fact 
of those values, of all values. Apart from such 
meaning they stand as empty words destitute of all 

Life itself, you may say, may be a colossal atrocity, 
a deception, a gigantic blunder. When you say so, 
kindly observe that you are placing your judgment - 
seat at some unknown, undefined, and wholly imaginary 
point outside life itself. . And the meaning of the judg- 


ment you pass is as utterly vacuous as that of 
the one-time thinkers who, crazed with metaphysics, 
pretended to sit outside all relations and conditions, 
and discoursed of the Absolute and the Unconditioned, 
of the thing -in -itself divested of its 'attributes/ You 
are; at liberty to repudiate all values, to score the 
words good, bad, high, low out of your vocabulary 
though, while you live, you cannot dispense* with using 
those values every second of your active existence; but 
if you use the words at all you can only validly do 
so by reference to the significance which life itself 
in its immutable tendencies has assigned to them. 
When, as is constantly done, the whole worth and 
achievement of human evolution are repudiated, when 
a Nordau or a Carpenter denounces civilization as an 
artificial disease and advocates a return to ' more 
natural conditions,' that attitude Is not so much one of 
rebellion against * civilization * as against life . 

We are not happy. Modern man is confronted with 
difficulties and problems far more distracting and 
formidable than ever did or could trouble primitive 
man. To us the life-problems of the latter appear 
enviably simple; there are for us sources of anguish 
and despair, lachrymce re/urn, which to our savage 
ancestors were non-existent and would have been quite 
incomprehensible. That is precisely because we have 
transcended the world of conditions in which they 
moved, because the field of our endeavours is transferred 
to new and immensely enlarged spheres, where, as all 
powers do, they necessarily meet with' new oppositions, 
new entangled complexities, obstacles and defeats. That 
is the penalty of all progress. Didi we escape it we 
should have a certain sign that our growth was arrested, 
that in us the forces of life were dying out. .With 
the growth and expansion of every capacity is like- 
wise developed the capacity ior pain; but in spite 
of the price life struggles for the prize. And those 
disciples of Rousseau who would persuade us to walk 
on all fours would probably be the first hastily to 
decline to change places, mentally and materially, with 
an idyllic South-Sea cannibal. 


If we take ' happiness ' as the criterion of human 
values, why should we stop at the ' natural conditions * 
of savage life? On that criterion not only must the 
savage be placed above civilized man, but also the 
hog above the savage, the amoeba, doubtless, above 
the hog. The nonexistent must, to be strictly con- 
sistent, be placed above every form of struggling, 
aspiring existence. The logical goal of the repudiators 
of human progress) is not Tahiti, but Nirvana. 

The divine discontent which 1 impeaches and condemns 
the present, and which is in its rarer creative aspect 
the very stimulus of progress, is in its commoner 
inveterate form, as| a trait of human lassitude, the la us 
temporis acti which tricks out the past in the hues 
of its own wistful pessimism, filtering away its unsightli- 
ness and preserving only its mellow glamour and 
charm. The actual present grips us in every tender 
and irritable nerve, has us on edge, is full of care and 
annoyance, of tragedy and ugliness. We need at times 
all our fortitude to bear with it, to stand up to the 
daily strain and pressure; at every step we are ready 
to, succumb, to blaspheme life, the world, the present 

3Aas not the Past, the Past that we may with 
delightful and refreshing relief contemplate detachedly, 
setting and composing our picture of it with tasteful 
choice, the Past that leaves us alone, that does not tug 
and nag at us, and irritate our susceptible nerves- 
was not the Past better? The illusion is embodied in 
the very substance of our Promethean clay slaked in 
the water of Lethe; it is rooted 1 in the deepest nature 
of life itself. But even the dimmest critical ray in 
the light under which we envisage ptast history should 
suffice to dispel it. It is ali very well to imagine 
how we should enjoy and appreciate, and be vastly 
interested in a Cook's tour through time in a machine 
of Mr. H!. G. Wells 'sj invention, provided with all our 
present intellectual luggage and knowledge and interests. 
But actually to transfer ourselves back, mind and body, 
into, any; of those picturesque pleasure resorts of our 


historical fancy would be no Cook's tour, but an 
experience somewhat fuller of the doubts, uncertainties, 
cares and anxieties, and problems, and ignorances of 
which we complain than even the troublesome present. 
Not, only would the picturesque dirt and squalor of 
life put even our tourist's good nature to a severe 
strain, but we should find that for us the whole 
conditions of life would be positively intolerable. 

In what period of the Past shall we seek refuge 
from) the harrying present? SAShere betake ourselves 
in our search for the world of our choice? 

Greece, the Athens of Perikles, the Acropolis, thej 
groves of Academe? As we enter the unpaved' lanes of 
the dirty little Levantine town we are blinded with dust. 
Our gorge rises as we pick our way through the 
scattered refuse, and the smells of frying oil are wafted 
to our nostrils from the booths where fly-covered strings 
of onions are hanging in the sun. In the square, low 
hovels with their dunghill heaped tty the fig!-tree at 
the side, we shall find no home, no comfort ^ old 
Euripides, who lives like a troglodyte in his cave over 
at Salamis, fuming there with disgust at a desolating 
worAd, is considerably better housed than most Athenians. 
And existence is dreadfully uncertain; we never know 
when we may get ourselves into trouble, be exiled or 
presented with a cup of hemlock. Those immortal 
products of Greece, those ^Eschylean plays, and 
Platonic dialogues, that Parthenon, those Pheidian 
figures, that thought, that art, that poetry., whose 
pacifying serenity seems to breathe into us the 
spirit of a divine calm, were all wrought under 
conditions differing littlfi from! a Reign of Terror ; 
that serenity is the product of Bolshevist condi- 
tions. And war is always at the very gates with 
its imminent possibilities. 3Aar was but yesterday at 
our own gates, the most horrible war, we have got used 
to repeating, in all history. Yes, but we did not con- 
template that even Hun schrecklichkeit would go so 
far as to ' andrapodize ' London in the event of a 
German conquest. That meant putting every man, old 
or young, to the sword and selling the women and 



children into slavery. That is the Way, in which Melos 
and Scione and Histiaea and other Greek towns' were 
treated by the Athenians, that is the way in which they 
calmly decided under the shadow of the Acropolis to 
treat Mytilene. At best all were sold into slavery, 
fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters separated and 
scattered in the markets of Delos and the brothels of 
the Levant. That was the w&y in which those god- 
like Greeks of the) Periklean age Were in the habit 
of; dealing with a captured Greek town. The Daily 
'Mail has not yet suggested that the savage Huns would 
behave quite like those fellow-citizens of Euripides and 

Shall we choose instead for our abode imperial Rome 
in the hey-day of that age of the Antonines which has 
been pronounced one of the most prosperous and happy, 
in the history of mankind? The narrow, winding streets 
are not very safe even in broad daylight, thieves and 
pickpockets of every type swarm everywhere ; and even 
plausible gentlemen with fingers covered with rings 
will be filching some trifle while they kiss your hand. 
And at night it would be positively foolhardy to venture 
out without a goodly train of attendants well armed 
with clubs. People disappear spurlo$ ; and bands of 
bandits actually take possession of the city whenever 
a garrison drives them 1 from the Pontine Marshes or 
the Vulturnus. Here we have no war, we are enjoying 
the great Pax. Romana. But judging from all the 
vexatious, inquisitorial regulations and official pryings 
into our privacy, from! the taxes on ' luxuries/ 
andi registrations, from the exorbitant prices of food, 
the! downright famines whenever the precarious sea- 
transport fails, and the food-cards, it would really seem 
as if we had got back again under the regirnen of an 
aggravated D.O.R.A. There is no (privacy; and the 
secret service, the all-pervading system 1 of spies and 
informants, of which there are some in every house, 
in 1 every tavern, even under the best emperors, is a 
positive terrorism. It is impossible to speak freely 
anywhere. There is a unanimous lamentation on that 
score among all authors. "It is impossible tot think 


or express oneself freely, says Tacitus; " One must 
not think of any innovation unless one wishes death," 
says Philostratus. " By showing any confidence to any 
one/' says Epictetus, " the unwary fall into the traps 
of the soldiery. An officer in mufti sits beside you 
and begins to criticize the emperor; you, in order ta 
appear quite frank, say what you think, and the result 
is that you find yourself cast in prison and in irons. "- 

Need we try the Dark Ages? \\te shall have occasion 
to see later what to think of them. Or shall we cast 
our lot in resurrecting Europe, in the Florence of Dante, 
say? Dante does not speak well of it, on the whole 
distinctly does not recommend it. The Rome, the Paris 
of the Renaissance, of Cellini ; Tudor London when 
the shadow of the Tower and of the block lay over 
the life of every great one, and that of the gallows 
across that of every poor, appear equally to be places 
to be avoided. 

.We come to the brink of the Modern World, to the 
seventeenth century. Let us at once seek out the very 
centre of the new lights, the court of the Roi Soleil, 
which sets the tone of refinement and' splendour to the 
whole world. The drains, you must excuse, are out 
of order, and the gentlemen about here suffer from 1 
extensive attentions from ttyeir apothecaries; the King, 
too, and the fine ladies of the Court are troubled with 
pyorrhoea, so that their breath is somewhat offensive ; ; 
and as the ladies do not shave their heads like the 
men well, one gets surprises. People eat with their 
fingers ; arid the hat of Monsieur, which he wears at 
table, has got somewhat greasy at the brim from much' 
saluting. But you are getting impatient : these are 
mere paltry details . We are not concerned with them ; 
it is freedom, intellectual liberty, good taste, the 
stimulus of a beautiful life and of high ideals which 
we seek. Then, I think, we have come altogether 
to the wrong place. What there is of free intellect is 
mostly to be found in the prisons of an omnipotent 
Ignorance and Intolerance, or is burning its manuscripts 
for fear of it, or is hiding in Holland. 

Our choice is getting limited. There is not, I fear, 



a single epoch' which* on closer acquaintance will not 
jar upon our susceptibilities and fill us with disgust 
and indignation, which, in fact, we of to-day could make 
shift to endure at all* Nay, how rriany of us would 1 
consent to step back even into that prim 1 mid -Victorian 
world that lies almost within our memories? 

The cheap scoffs levelled at * progress ' and 
* civilization ' words vulgarized enough, it is true, 
and debased by the hawking eloquence of press and 
politics, scorning them as flimsy veneers, external and 
superficial accretions obduced over a fixed and unre- 
deemable thing termed ' human nature/ would seem 
at the present moment to be barbed with hundredfold 
irony amid the paroxysm of all the forces of destruction, 
and the wreck and jeopardy of a world. 

tWherefore was that martyrdom accepted? wherefore 
was the fight waged? [Wjas it not precisely in defence 
ofj the heirloom of human progress and in the hope 
of a better world? Those forces of Bedlam have, 
together with a thousand other abuses and diseases, 
the cursed relics of the Past, existed, simmered, and 
fermented in our imperfectly realized humanity long 
before their material eruption. It is in one of the 
great climacteric crises of human evolution that we are 
living ; a crisis none the less a part of the process of 
upward growth because it is in the utmost violence of 
its destructive aspect, and with the most distracting 
and imperative sternness of its Sphynx riddles that it 
confronts us. 

And now more urgently than ever does it behove 
us to understand to the utmost of our, capacity 
the nature of that evolution,. .^hP5je__law|s__ shape . the 
destinies of the human worlcL In that awful and 

process, amTd tragedies and horrors unspeak- 
able, miseries untold, mire, sordidness, squalor, baseness 
unavowable, we see man for all his faults and follies- 
making himself out of a brute into a demi-god. The 
obvious question thrusts itself upon us How did he 
do it? 





THE answer to that question well-nigh the most 
momentous to which thought can apply itself is exceed- 
ingly simple, and so obvious that no profound pene- 
tration is needed to discover it. Yet, far from being a 
glaring and familiar truism, it has hardly even been 
definitely formulated with unequivocal clearness ; the 
plain and direct answer appears, on the contrary, to 
have been studiously evaded ; and we have, in its stead, 
an array of profound, elaborate,, and circuitous explana- 
tions, a literature of theories 'and philosophies of history 
which have thoroughly succeeded in tangling and be- 
fogging the issue. There is probably no inquiry, the 
ultimate of metaphysics not excepted, where thought has 
shown so pathetically ineffectual and feeble. 

The earlier attempts to view the mighty maze 
as not without a plan, when not merely identi^ 
fying it with a pre-established providential scheme, 
as in the doctrine of Augustine and its later 
versions in Bossuet and Schlegel, were at one in 
viewing it as the detached unfolding of the mind of 
man, or of some aspect thereof, in segregated inde- 
pendence from the encompassing universe. In seeking 
a cause whereby a uniform interpretation might be placed 
upon events, they did not go beyond the mind itself, 
wholly ignoring the other term of the relation, the environ- 
ing world of conditions amid which humanity is called 
upon to react. Those idealistic conceptions, variously 
seasoned with those of the Providential Scheme and of 
the Prussian State, have floated down the rarefied 
atmosphere of German philosophy from Kant, Lessing, 



and Schelling, to the transcendental unfolding of the 
Hegelian ' Idea ' in the mistlands of the Unconditioned. 
That calm disregard of the conditioning media of 
human development has its up-to-date counterpart like- 
wise of Germanic provenance in the exaltation of the 
old barbaric conqueror's pride of ' race,' conceived as 
an endowment of immutable stability, as the supreme 
determinant in human history. Ostentatiously arrayed 
in terminology obtrusively scientific, armed, with cephalic 
indices, and cross-sections of hair, with Mendelian 
characters, and ' statistics of genius per square mile,' 
and supported with heavy artillery by the allied deifica- 
tion of ' heredity ' to the exclusion of environment by 
Weismannic biology, the apostle of race proceeds to 
demonstrate that everything of value and every notable 
personality in the world have been the product of the 
particular race that claims his allegiance Teutonic, 
Mediterranean, Nordic, as the case may be ; that the 
Greeks, that Jesus, that Dante were Gertnans ; or that 
the Vikings were Italians-; that civilization has proceeded 
from north to south, or from south to north, is the 
result of purity of race, or of cross-fertilization of races. 
" Race is everything," '* the search is at an end, here 
lie the grand causes." l It is the key to the inters 
pretation of every historical fact. The '- quarrels between 
patrician and plebeian," for instance, obviously '* arose 
from the existence in Rome, side by side, of two distinct 
and clashing races ",; " The splendid cbnquistadores of 
the New Wprld," one is interested to hear, " w*ere of 
Nordic type, but their pure stock did not long survive 
their new surroundings, and to-day they have vanished 
utterly. After considering well these facts we shall not 
have to search further for jhe causes of the collapse 
of Spain. "a Clearly that would be quite superfluous. 
Flattering as it is to patriotic pride, the doctrine 
above all recommends itself by its labour-saving economy, 
which enables us to account for Greece by ' Greek 
genius/ for Rome by ' Roman ditto,' for England by, 
' the genius of the Anglo-Saxon race/ for monotheism 

1 Taine, Hist, of English Literature. 

* Madison Grant, The Passing oj the Great Race, pp. 139 and 174. 


by the ' Semitic genius for religion/ in the same funda- 
mental manner as Moliere's doctor elucidated the 
' dormitive virtue ' of opium. 

' Race * or ' Heredity ' is but the summation of 
ancestral reactions to past environments, and is only stable 
and persistent under altered conditions as the incon- 
venient facts brushed aside by its protagonists indicate 
in proportion to the depth of the original impressions, 
to the length of time during which they have operated, 
and to the relative force and duration of the new influences 
which tend to modify them. As everywhere else in the 
organic world, races separated from others in their de- 
velopment have become differentiated and have acquired 
distinct characters both physical and mental. But, owing 
to the peculiar nature of the products of human evolution 
and of the manner of their transmission, the effects of a 
very partial segregation on the leading stocks of man- 
kind are not comparable in magnitudje or stability to 
those of segregation in the animal world. 



A real sequence of cause and effect first becomes 
apprehensible when attention, instead of being centred 
on the mind and the race, is directed to the 
environment in relation to which' they react and 
develop. Buckle pointed out the relation between 
a people's history and the geographical conditions of 
its homeland. While some of his illustrations were of 
Lamarckian crudity, he was, on the other hand, too 
moderate in his claims ; for he confined that influence to 
the earlier stages of development. The direct and para- 
mount relation between the geography of Greece, of 


Egypt, of Holland is obvious Sat a glance ; the like 
holds good of every country and is by no means con- 
fined to any one period of growth. Not only is the 
political development of England and of its free in- 
stitutions, as was long ago pointed out by the old Wihig 
theorists, the direct effect, not of any racial characteristic, 
but of England's insular position, which deprived central- 
ized power of the pretext for permanent armaments and 
supremacy ; but almost every peculiarity of English 
character is likewise traceable to the consequences of 
that circumstance. History, as the followers of Ratzel 
and Demolins have with pardonable exaggeration de- 
clared, is a function of geography. 

But the determining action of the environment is much 
more intimate, pervasive, and far-reaching than that 
exercised on human relations by general geographical 
conditions. The life of man depends in the last resort 
upon his bread and butter, and is conditioned by the 
way he obtains it. The character of a community, and 
the course of its development, must needs vary in 
like manner, according as it depends for its susten- 
ance upon agriculture, or commerce, or war. But not 
only is the whole mode of life of a society thus deter- 
mined by the source of its sustenance : a new order 
of factors is set up by the various divisions of labour 
entailed in obtaining it. Wealth and power tend to 
accumulate in the hands of certain classes, and conflict- 
ing sets of interests are thus established. That new 
human environment in turn creates an order of influences 
which moulds the entire order of society. And those 
very features of the mental world, the types of those 
ideas and ideals, fancifully supposed by metaphysical 
theorists to rule the whole process, and to soar far 
above sordid material conditions, are themselves subject 
to the determining influence of those conditions. The 
conceptions, the notions, the prejudices, the standards 
of judgment and of conduct, the literature, the philosophy, 
the morality of the community, are shaped and coloured 
by the nature of the established ruling interests which the 
material conditions have determined. 


Those principles, first definitely formulated by Marx 
and Engels, by recognizing in the manifold conditions 
of the environment the true determinant of differentiation, 
mark the advent of a scientific method of historical 
interpretation. The materialistic or economic theory of 
history has been termed by its admirers one of the 
greatest discoveries of the nineteenth century ; and, what 
is much more significant, its influence, in spite of its overt 
and reckless defiance of the tenderest susceptibilities of 
conventional sentiment and of the Iwhole order of thought 
dearest to academic decorum, has rapidly made itself 
felt in all recent historical studies. It is nearly every- ' 
where recognized that the first indispensable foundation 
to the clear understanding of any given epoch or people, 
is not its metaphysical conceptions, or even its political 
situation, but its economic conditions. \ ' 

But in regard to the particular question which we were 
asking By what means has human progress been 
effected? or, what comes to the same thing, What have 
been the causes of progressive development? the economic ; 
theory of history labours under a serious disadvantage : 
it is entirely irrelevant . It does not supply any explana- 
tion of the fact of progress. There is no perceptible or 
intelligible reason why change in the conditions of pro- 
duction and distribution should result in continuous 
advance. Brilliant as is the light which the principle \ 
has shed upon the complex facts of history, it affords 
no insight into the greatest and most fundamental fact of 
all. So far as I know the exponents of the theory 
lay no claim to supplying an explanation of continuous 
progress. Nay, the various changes which they point 
out as being direct effects of altered economic conditions, 
the subverting of primitive communistic relations, the 
rise of various forms of class power, the development 
of private property, the shaping of political, intellectual, 
and moral standards and conceptions in accordance with 
dominating interests, are in every case changes which they, 
deplore. So far as any relation is manifested between 
the complex development of economic conditions and 
the great fact of human progress, the former would 
appear to play the part of an obstacle rather than that 



of a means and efficient cause. Progress appears to 
have taken place in spite of, rather than as a conse- 
quence of them. 


In seeking the cause of that progressive character 
of development it is necessary to clear our ground by 
a more definite understanding of what, in this connection, 
we are to consider as a cause. The question of causation 
in human evolution, and in all evolutionary processes, 
is beset with the confusion which attaches to that terrible 
word ' cause,' to the notion of ' chance,' and to the brain - 
whirling abysses which they set yawning before the mind. 

Touching the nature of causation in general the upshot 
of the matter is that we do not know at all the nexus 
between a cause and its effect : we only view the 
sequence and its constancy. That there is a nexus, 
we have, from that constancy of sequence, good grounds 
for surmising ; and if we knew its nature we should be 
in possession of the inmost secret of the universe. 

There is nothing so very abstruse about the notion 
of * chance,' if we take tjie trouble to think clearly. 

It is constantly said and accepted as pure wisdom 
that when we speak of * chance ' we are merely using 1 
the term as an expression of our ignorance of the true 
cause of a sequence of events. That is absolutely false. 
When we speak of a series of events as determined 
by chance, in contrast with a more specific determina- 
tion, we have a perfectly definite and correct distinction 
in our minds. We mean that among the multitude of 
circumstances which condition the occurrence of the 
chance event, none bears a constant relation to the result. 


If we spin a -coin, there is not among the numerous play 
of forces which condition the result head or tail any one 
condition, or set of conditions, so related to the result 
' head, 1 or to the result * tail,' that it will constantly tend 
to bring about the one rather than the other. There is 
no constant and necessary nexus, no indissoluble con- 
nection of cause and effect between any of the determining 
conditions and one result rather than the other; any 
one of those conditions may, according to its combination 
with other circumstances, turn the scale in favour of heads, 
or in favour of tails indifferently. The relation between 
each one of the operating causes and the given result 
is not direct and indissoluble, but absolutely indifferent. 
So much so that if the coin-spinning be repeated long 
enough, those indifferent conditions will neutralize and 
cancel one another, so that the result ' head ' will come 
about as often as the result 'tail.' 

But if we toss the coin many times and the result 
turns out to be always the same, we at once begin to 
have misgivings, and to entertain a suspicion that the 
conditions are not purely those of * chance.* If we 
go on repeating the experiment a great number of times, 
and the coin persists in showing * heads/ our suspicion 
gradually becomes converted into a conviction that there 
is some cause at work which does not come under our 
notion of chance, a cause which is directly related to 
the constant result. If on examination we discover the 
coin to be loaded, we shall no longer speak of the 
effect as due to chance. There is a direct constant con- 
nection between the loading of the coin and the result, 
whereas there is no such direct connection between any 
of the other circumstances and that result. And the 
presence of that directly related cause determines the 
constant tendency throughout the series. Whenever a 
series of phenomena exhibits a constant tendency there 
must exist a constant cause directly related to that 
tendency, a cause which will always act in the direction 
of the particular result, whatever be the influence of other , 
conditions. Indifferent conditions, conditions which are 
not constant, and which bear no direct relation to a given 
result, which may indifferently bring about that, or any 


other, according to th'e manner in which they are 
combined, Cannot give rise to a constant tendency ; 
they can only, and must in the long run, neutralize one 
another. They condition the result, but cannot constantly 
determine it ; they will at one time favour it, at other 
times oppose it. The constant and direct factor may 
be assisted or checked by those environing conditions, 
may avail itself of them, or be pitted against them, 
but the determinate and constant tendency depends upon 
the determinate and constant factor, not on indifferent 

Every river tends to the sea ; the nature of the 
country will modify the nature of its course ; in one 
place it will foam through a narrow, eroded gorge, in 
another wind through a low valley, here spread itself 
out over a wide plain, there leap hurtling over a granite 
ledge ; the manner of its course is conditioned by a 
multitude of circumstances, but neither hills, nor plains, 
or granitic; outcrops determine the invariable gravita- 
tional tendency to the sea. 

Every process of evolution is a series of phenomena 
in which there is a constant tendency. Like every other 
series of phenomena it is conditioned by innumerable 
circumstances. They all affect the process. But the 
cause of the evolutionary character of the series is 
the cause of its constant tendency. All others are but 
conditioning causes amid Which the process operates. 
Profoundly as they may affect it, they are not causes but 
conditions. The persistent confusion of nearly all the 
theories of human evolution has been to ignore all 
distinction between the two orders of factors. 

No possible combination of indeterminate and in- 
different circumstances, capable of acting this way or 
that way, bearing no constant and direct relation to a 
given issue, can determine a continuous series of events 
having a constant tendency, a continuous motion, a 
growth, an age-long progress, an evolution. 

We have, it is true, in the theory of natural selection 
a method which is held by an influential school of 
biologists to afford a complete explanation of evolution 
iri the organic world ; and which claims to explain a pro- 


cess of continuous progress by the operation of an ^infinity 
of indifferent conditions. But, as is well known^ that 
claim is open to grave dispute. Fortunately, it is quite 
needless for us to enter upon the thorny ground of 
that controversy. Most advocates of the theory are ready 
to admit that it may require considerable modification 
in its application to the human race. That it does 
apply to a certain extent there can be no doubt : the 
most progressive races occupy the van of human pro- 
gress. But that somewhat tautological verity leaves open 
the inquiry as to the sources of that pre-eminence and 
progress. Whether we adopt or reject the theory of 
natural selection makes, however, not the slightest 
difference to the issue under consideration. If we adopt 
it we shall be merely called upon to restate that issue 
in the terminology of the theory : What are those 
characters (variations) of human beings which constitute 
an advantage to be selected by its success? It is clear 
that the introduction of the formula of natural selection 
is here a gratuitous superfluity, for it is precisely to 
the nature of those qualities, of those means through which 
man has achieved his evolution that our question refers. 
The causes of the process of human evolution are 
the same as those of all living evolution. Whether 
those be an impulse to progressive development, to the 
extension of the powers of life, innate in its very con- 
stirution a or the necessarily cumulative effect of successive 
adaptations to its conditions, or the selective operation 
of those conditions on successive adaptive variations, it 
is fortunately immaterial for our purpose to discuss 
if indeed those be anything more than different ways of 
viewing and expressing the same fact. The problem 
in the present case narrows itself down to a recognition 
of the means employed! in human progress to extend 
the powers of adaptive control over the conditions 
of life. It is in the operation of those means 
alone that any conjectural impulse or any favour- 
able variation is manifested ; it is thqas means and 
methods employed by the organism itself which con- 
stitute the cause of the progressive character of the 


As in the idealistic and in the racial theories we 
must then seek for the progressive factor in man him- 
self. No geographical or economic determination can 
supply that constancy of direction. For they are but 
conditions of the process, and, whatever fundamental 
influence they, may exercise upon its course, they are 
from the nature of their action incapable of imparting 
to it a progressive character. But, at the same time, 
no power in man can operate or develop irrespectively 
of those and all other encompassing conditions. Indeed, 
those powers are nought else than powers to act upon, 
and in relation to them. Like every manifestation of 
life, they have no existence but as reactions of which 
the reacting organism is but one term ; the other term 
is represented by -the infinite complexity of the ambient 
medium to which it is life's necessity to adapt itself, 
and which it is its ambition to control. 





IT is, I think, fairly obvious that we shall obtain an 
important cue to the means by which human progress 
has been effected, if we turn in the first place to the 
antecedent question : By what means did mankind come 
into existence at all? By virtue of what qualities did 
the incipient and potential human race become differ- 
entiated from its animal progenitors, emerge distinctly 
above its competitors, establish itself successfully in the 
world, and obtain a predominance and mastery over 
its environment unparalleled in all previous evolution? 
There is, to say the least, a strong presumption that the 
same qualities which in the first instance raised man 
above other animals, placed himnaporT an incomparable 
level, made him man, continued to operate in the same 
direction and with the same success ; that the causes 
which determined his initial victory were closely related 
to his subsequent development. 

We are, it is true, referring to an event about which 
we possess no direct information. Yet the problem is 
a simple one ; for the characters and qualities which' 
would confer on the most primitive and emergent human 
race such a distinct advantage over its animal com- 
petitors, are so manifest as to leave little .room for 
doubt or difference of opinion. 

Progress in organic evolution has consisted in in- 
creased power to deal with the environment by means 
of greater efficiency in the organs of sensation and of 
action. Sensation serves to direct the operation of the 
means of action, and thus extends immensely their 



scope and efficiency. The power of claw and fang, 
of limb and wing, is dependent upon the keenness of 
eye and ear. By the perfecting of those powers of 
control over the environment, the means of maintaining 
life, of providing for its support, of protecting it 
from adverse agencies, of outdistancing rivals in 
the competition for existence, have been multiplied. 
The means which primitive brute -man developed to that 
end proved incomparably the most efficient ever em- 
ployed in the animal world. They consisted in a 

I/particular extension of the functions of sensation. For 
most of the organs of sensation, as a close and detailed 
examination would show, depend for their successful 
operation upon the power of recalling past impressions, 
and of applying past experiences to present situations -j 
thus interpreting the significance of the latter in .reference 
to the immediate future. Sight, for instance, derives 
its utility from the fact that it supplies information as 
to what would be the sensations yielded by closer contact 
with the remote object perceived by the eye. This 
can only be done by the association of an impression 
of sight with the memory of a past experience : the 
sight of a threatening enemy or of an attractive victual, 
informs the seeing animal by recalling past experiences 
of danger or of gratification associated with similar 
sensations from the eye. The same is true of all sen- 
sations at a distance. By an extension of the same 
process through more elaborate nervous interconnections, 
the procedure can be carried further. Multitudes of 
diverse impressions can be gathered together and 
variously combined, the record of past experience can 
be perfected and generalized ; and this greatly elaborated 
past experience can be more efficiently brought to bear 
upon the impressions of present circumstances, giving 
them an extended significance. Thus the bearing of 
the present upon either the immediate or more remote 
interests of the individual acquire a vastly wider scope .$ 
and his efficiency in dealing to his advantage with his 
environment is correspondingly raised and extended, his 

. powers indefinitely multiplied and increased. That pro- 

I cess is that of rational thought . *' 


I use the term * rational thought ' in preference to 
' reason,' because the latter is too closely associated 
in the popular mind with the old fallacious conception 
of a ' faculty/ a sort of special organ having an isolated 
existence, and endowed with mysterious powers peculiar 
to itself. In accordance with that fantastic psychology, 
people currently speak of ' using their reason ' or of 
not using it, of using their feelings, their will, or their 
imagination instead of their reason. Rationality is not-r' 
an organ, but a quality, a character of thought. In 
the circuit between experience and action, feeling and 
reaction, there is always interposed in man a process 
of mental digestion in which feeling and experience 
are chewed and transformed into the stuff whence action 
is made, into the supposition, the belief, the conviction 
upon which action proceeds. That intermediary process 
is always present to a greater or lesser extent : it 
constitutes thought. And that thought is in its mode 
of operation, in its method, rational to a greater or 
less extent. It is never entirely irrational; because its 
very function, the purpose which constitutes the origin 
of its existence, is to act rationally. But that function 
is commonly performed imperfectly the thought is not 
adequately rational. A man does not use any other 
faculty ' instead of ' his reason : he uses his brain - 
cells more or less rationally. 

The conditions of the efficient operation of that power 
are consistency with past and present experience and 
with itself. That is, it must possess adequate and 
adequately correct experience, be faithful to it, and not 
contradict itself in drawing inferences from it. The 
reason why such a process is efficient in drawing from 
the past and the present conclusions as to the future 
(or from the known to the unknown), and in therefore 
empowering the individual to adapt his action to those 
present and future conditions, is that the course of 
nature is uniform, that similar conditions are followed 
by corresponding sequels, that all things and appear- 
ances in the world are rigidly and accurately inter- 
connected, so that there is always' a definite and constant 
relation between any one aspect and all others. 


by the way, is but another way of saying that all things 
are bound up in one, that the world in its infinite variety 
is one great unity. If that were otherwise, if the world 
were incongruous, and lawless, if its parts were inde- 
pendent entities which could take the bit in their teeth', 
and act without reference to one another, this way to- 
day, and that way to-morrow, if the unconditioned, the 
arbitrary could break through the course of events, 
rational thought would be entirely useless. It would 
never have received from the external environment any 
stimulus to develop at all ; it would never have been 
' selected ' ; it would never have come into existence. 
Rational thought is an adaptation of the organism to 
the most general and fundamental character of man's 
external environment . 

The tendency towards such an adaptation existed in 
the animal world long; before man. It rests, as we 
have just noted, upon the same organic principle as 
the higher forms of sensation. But its tap-root sinks 
much deeper, in the method of all animal behaviour 
and reaction from its very dawn, in the reaction of 
all life. That method is that of Trial and Error. You 
have seen some foraging beetle with its burden come 
suddenly upon an unexpected obstacle, repeatedly en- 
deavour to surmount it, seek a passage first in one 
direction, then in another, explore half the points of 
the compass, and after long minutes of persevering and 
fruitless attempts, hit at last upon some path through 
or round the obstacle. That is the universal tactical 
principle of all vital action. Between the method of 
trial and error and that of rational thought there is 
no line of demarcation ; the one merges into the other. 
Trial and error is a perfectly sound rational process > 
it arrives by a somewhat lengthy and laborious pro- 
cedure at a result which ' works/ which fits in with 1 
the facts. The rejection by the amoeba, by the beast, 
of a line of action which has proved inefficient, fruitless, 
or dangerous, is the exclusion of an exploded opinion, 
and is exactly similar to that of critical thought, which 
narrows down its choice by the exclusion of a view 
which is found to be untenable. Rational thought is 


but a labour-saving, perfected method of obtaining the 
same correspondence with' facts; just as algebraical or 
differential calculation is a labour-saving development 
of the process of reasoning. The primitive and universal 
method of trial and error passed by slow degrees into 
the more perfect one of rational thought, which is quite 
commonly used by the higher animals. The entire class 
of mammals owes, indeed, its evolutionary success, as 
does man, to brain development. That develop- 
ment first reached in the anthropoid race a degree 
capable of reacting through its effects and activities 
upon its own growth, and was thus stimulated to an 
expansion advancing in geometrical progression. 

The brute -man first bethought himself of using his 
brain as a handle to his tools and weapons. It was 
that power, that adaptation, it was solely the exercise 
of rational thought which gave him his paramount 
victory. That and nothing else. He possessed no other 
qualification to supremacy over other mammals, no other 
advantage commensurate with his achievements. The 
one or two distinctive anatomical peculiarities of the 
human animal are, by comparison, trifling. Moreover, 
though until lately it was an interesting subject pf 
anthropological speculation whether the erect attitude 
has preceded and assisted brain -development, or vice 
versa ; the recent great extensions of our knowledge 
of human ancestry have virtually settled that ques- 
tion. Brain -development was the first and only pre- 
dominant character of differentiation ; and the erect 
attitude, and consequent development of the hand, 
followed only much later, in correlation with the effects 
arising out of the primary character. The very bodily 
form of man is an effect of the power of rational 
thought . 

Exclusively through that power which superseded all 
other tools, organic contrivances, and weapons, which 
rendered obsolete all other methods of supremacy 
hitherto produced by organic evolution, he became man. 
The lordship of the earth was his, and what later came 
to appear as an impassable gulf between him and all 
other creatures was established. Whatever other 



characters may be mentioned as peculiar to, and 
distinctive of man at the present day, such' as various 
developments of feeling, emotion, sentiment, moral sense, 
social organization, it is clearly not through any of those 
that the differentiation of the human race from its animal 
progenitors was effected. The incipient anthropoid race 
did not establish itself through a higher morality, or 
refinement of feeling, or poetical imagination, or sublime 
ideals, or economic arrangements. Those characters 
would obviously have been absolutely useless in the 
circumstances. And moreover they did not exist ; they 
are subsequent developments, they owe the possibility 
of their existence to the position established by the 
power of rational thought. Without human rational 
thought, no human morality, no human religious senti- 
ments, no ideals, no high aspirations, no social organi- 
zations or obligations. Rational thought had to make 
man first, had to open the way for all subsequent 
developments and possibilities. 



That being the means by which the human race has 
achieved the first transcendent evolutionary victory .to 
which it owes its existence and the fact is hardly open 
to dispute there is clearly a considerable a priori pre- 
sumption that the same power has also been concerned 
in its subsequent evolution. That original factor has 
in its proved efficiency in the first stages a prior claim 
to be regarded, before any other explanation is put 
forward, as not inadequate to account also for the 
subsequent phases of the same process. There is no 


indication that any radical change of method has taken 

place at any stage of that process, that the original 

instrument of success became later superseded by others. 

/ Rational thought was the sole efficient means of human 

; emergence out of animality ; may it not also have 

been the sole efficient means" of the whole growth which! 

it originally rendered possible? 

That is the present writer's view. Rationality of 
thought has, I believe, been from first to last the means 
and efficient cause of the evolution of the human race. 
It has not been merely one of several factors, or even 
the most important among them, but strictly and without 
qualification the sole actual instrument of human pro- 
gress in whatever aspect it be considered. 

Nothing is more complex than the medium in which 
the growth of humanity has taken place ; for it includes 
not only the physical universe, the ' material necessities 
of life, but also the even vaster and more varied world 
of the human mind and of human relations ; passions 
and appetites, emotions and interests, prejudices and 
aspirations, social systems and institutions, thoughts, 
doctrines, traditions, and the interplay, conflicts, and 
infinite permutations of all those factors. They have 
each and all impressed their influence variously and 
deeply upon the form and course of human evolution ; 
the process has been shaped, moulded, coloured, given 
its form and features by those and a thousand other 
elements and factors, physical, physiological, economical, 
sentimental. But its actual forward development, its 
progressive character is exclusively the effect of that 
particular instrument of adaptation by which the human 
race has been differentiated. 

. All other factors have been, not means or efficient 
causes of the process of progress, but conditions. They 
have promoted progress or impeded it, sped it or retarded 
it, according as they have acted favourably or unfavour- 
ably upon the operation and development of rational 
thought. In no case is their relation to the fact of 
progress continuous and invariable ; their influence may 
be at one time favourable and at another time unfavour- 
able. Thus political freedom is of all conditions one 


of the most favourable to human development ; yet 
without autocracy and despotism civilization could not 
have arisen at all ; it has had its birth in absolute 
power, has constantly been promoted by autocratic and 
aristocratic despotism, and large masses of mankind 
by remaining in a state of tribal freedom have been 
irremediably condemned to arrested growth. Military 

\ power exercises in general a profoundly pernicious influ- 

j ence on development, yet wars of pure aggression and 

conquest have been among the most potent and 

momentous factors which have assisted human progress. 

j Division of labour is one of the most fertile sources 
of efficiency, but it has also been the means of bringing 
about oppression and the most hopeless stagnation. 
There are few influences which have been more fatal 
to intellectual advance and human development than 

I theological dogmatism, yet it has at times exercised 
important beneficent influences, has proved a stimulus 
through its challenges, has assisted progress by estab- 
lishing a common bond and 'medium of thought. Even 
intellectual culture itself, though it might loosely be 
regarded as coextensive with rational 'development, may, 
if disdainful of it, be a check to progress instead of 
a means and manifestation of it. Thus it is that the 
task of advocacy is so smooth, that the advocatus diaboli 
is enabled to make out an excellent case for every 
abomination, to exhibit to bewildered publics the in- 
valuable benefits of despotism and slavery, the almost 
indispensable advantages of murder, the redemption of 
the world by lies, the beneficent effects of fraud, and the 
incalculable value of disease. Deductions are constantly 
drawn from an apparent similarity of conditions^, political, 
economic, social, in situations where history, it is 
thought, repeats itself, while those conditions may, as 
a matter of fact, have totally different results according 
to the stage of human evolution in which they operate. 
Although no one perhaps will directly demur to the 
statement, when put in so many words, that man is 
first and foremost homo sapiens, that all his powers 
are dependent upon the rationality with which he 
employs them, and that he succeeds or fails according 


as he thinks and acts rationally or irrationally, yet 
many are quite prepared to uphold views directly im- 
plying an entirely different estimate of the sources of 
human power ; and there is a deeply roote'd and wide- 
spread disposition to disparage rational thought, and 
exalt at its expense other supposed powers and methods 
as the talismans of progress arid true human develop- 


Rational thought is man's means of adaptation. - 
The world which he has made is the outthrow of his 
mind. The stones of his cities and the steel of his 
engines are made of thoughts ; they are moved, like 
his battalions of industry and of war, like the pulses 
of his life, by his ideas. That life, that world must, 
like every form and manifestation of life, be adapted 
to the conditions which the unbending nature of things, 
the unrepealed facts of the universe impose. That is 
the fundamental condition of their existence, as of all 
existence, of their development, as of all development. 
The extent to which man can exercise his powers, 
control life to his will and purpose, depends upon the 
measure in which he conforms to existing facts. Hence 
it depends in the last resort upon the accuracy of his 
perception of them. He will fail in the measure that 
that perception is false, succeed in the measure that 
it is true. Progress depends upon truth. 

That adaptation is the function and utility of rational 
thought. Rationality of thought simply means the 


conformity of human ideas and thought to the actual 
relation of man to his environment. Greater accuracy 
in the operation of that function means greater adapta- 
tion. The aim man has in view in using a rational 
process is precisely to secure that correspondence between; 
his thoughts and the actual relation and' sequence of 
events. Rational thought developed by virtue of that 
correspondence, and man uses the method because his 
experience teaches him that that correspondence can 
thus be attained. 

It would' be ingenuous to suppose that human 
evolution has been effected by the purposive applica- 
tion of rational thought to progressive ends. The 
actual process is by no means so simlple. To conceive 
it thus, as a gradual growth of rational thought engaged 
in building the human world, is butj a form of the old 
fallacy which saw in human history the beatific vision 
of: an unfolding mind proceeding! in unconditioned 
independence of the hard exigencies of an, untractable 

Man has only been in an infinitesimal measure 
rational. He has ' muddled through ' in all sorts of 
haphazard ways. He has often achieved' adaptation and 
progress quite irrationally. Casual judgment and 
thoughtless conduct may be in harmony with fact; 
intentionally rational thought may fail from 1 a thousand 
sources of error. But even the fortuitous success, in 
so far as it is adaptive, must be rationally valid. 
Wihether as the fruit of a deliberately rational process 
of thought, or because, howsoever arising, a course of 
action, a view or idea, does in fact correspond to external 
laws and events, it is, in two somewhat different senses, 
rational; in the one case with reference to the intention, 
in the other with reference to the result. 

The primordial biological method of trial and error 
has continued to operate in human evolution as through- 
out the evolution of life. It is the original horse-sense 
of living things. It is the method of experience; you 
learn by your mistakes, you fail and try again; your 
later attempts profit by the lessons of previous disasters, 
until, by a process of exhaustion and by following up 


the clues afforded by unsuccessful, or partially successful 
attempts, success is at last achieved. 

The method of trial and error is a perfectly valid 
and legitimate one; it works. But it is costly and 
wasteful. It is cheaper to be wise, if we can, before the 
event than after it. Rational thought is the human im-, 
provement on the biological method of trial and error ; 
a perfected, economical, immensely more effectual form 
of it. If one course of action proves successful and 
another fails there is a reason for it. If sufficient 
knowledge had been available, if sufficient trouble had 
been taken, it would have been possible to know 
beforehand which was the rational and which the 
irrational course. The successful result is that to which 
efficient thought would have led, had it been applied. 
With the growth of rationality, the development of 
experience, of available data, and of the habit of rational 
thought, its powers contribute more and more to the 
results of the method of trial and' error, shorten and 
facilitate and economize its waste in an increasing 
degree. The sphere of that method becomes narrowed, 
that of rational thought extended. The more efficient 
method of adaptation tends constantly to prevail. 

Every idea, every new point of view, every new 
procedure arises, recommends itself, proves vital and 
gains influence, is ' selected/ by virtue o'f the fact 
that it is more rational, that is, better adapted, more 
in harmony with facts and experience, more consistent, 
more efficient than that which it seeks to supplant. 
In a well-known passage Mill impugns the dictum that 
truth always triumphs ; but his argument from instances 
of successfully suppressed truth is practically nullified 
by the qualifying admission that, although what is true 
may be put down by opposition and persecution once, 
twice or many times, it comes forward again and again 
until it ultimately triumphs. It arises again and again 
precisely because the process of rational thought is 
the only constantly operating factor of growth in human- 
affairs, and the positions to which that process leads 
must consequently be of necessity reached again, no 
matter how often they have been abandoned. In point 


of fact rational development is invariably violently 
resisted, and very generally put down and defeated, 
for the simpile reason that it is always opposed, to the 
established view's and apparent interests of the majority. 
But; it is at the same time inevitably predestined' to 
prevail. Truth is at once sure of defeat and of ultimate 


Rational thought is the only progressive element in 
the human world. Unlike all other alleged factors of 
human evolution, the operation of rational thought 
contains the inherent principles of continuous develop- 
ment. ;W.hile there is no perceivable reason why change 
of any kind, whether of economic, geographical, or 
ethnical conditions, 'should result in such' a phenomenon 
as constant progress, rational thought necessarily 
involves progress. Every advance accomplished lays 
down at the same time the basis of a further and greater 
advance !by extending the foundations of experience and! 
knowledge. The results of rational thought multiply in 
geometrical progression. 

But every rational process of thought is above all 
essentially progressive in its operation because it can 
never stop short of its ultirnate logical consequences. 
A new 'idea or principle never proceeds at once to 
its ultimate conclusion, it is always only in part rational; 
it is more rational than its predecessors, but still 
imperfectly adapted, timid, inconsistent, only to a small 
degree emancipated from those traditional errors and 
abuses which it opposes . Yet once it has arisen, nothing 


is more inevitable than that it shall proceed to its last 
consequences. It is a logical process, and logic cannot 
stop halfway. That development may be wholly un- 
foreseen at the origin of the process; the most direct 
and obvious implications of the new principle may not 
only be entirely foreign to the thought of those who 
advance it, but wholly abhorrent to them. The stimulus 
to which they react proceeds usually from some par- 
ticular aspect, or from some grossly prominent excess 
of existing irrationality ; and apart from that aspect, 
the innovators are as much under the spell and influence 
of the traditional order of ideas as are their opponents; 
their attitude towards the most obvious logical con- 
sequences of the principle Which they champion,- is 
exactly the same as that of their opponents towards the 
new principle itself. The reformers, the revolutionaries, 
the innovators, the heretics, the radicals, the iconoclasts of 
former days, would stand aghast before the consequences 
of their own work, and would occupy to-day the ranks 
of the most determined opponents of the fruits of those 
very principles, which they devoted their energies and 
their lives to establish. Yet nothing can arrest the 
process. As the consequences follow inevitably in the 
order of logical thought, so likewise do they follow 
inevitably in the order of human development. The? 
notions of compromise, moderation, the avoidance of 
extremes and excesses, are entirely irrelevant and 
meaningless in the rational process. Such a process 
can only be at fault through defect, never through 
excess of rationality. A qualified and incomplete 
application of rational principles can only be provisional ; 
from the moment that the principle is recognized the 
ultimate recognition of its most remote implications is 
assured, even though the deduction may take centuries 
to take effect. It is impossible to adopt a rational 
principle with the proviso Thus far shalt thou go 
and no further. 

.We constantly see a rational principle accepted, 
probably after much initial opposition, recognized at 
last and embraced, it may be, with sincere enthusiasm 
by a large section of those who at first distrusted it; 


but the same opposition with which they greeted it 
is now directed with equal fierceness against its 
immediate consequences. A party always exists which 
thinks to establish a comfortable and permanent resting- 
place in the midst of the advancing tide; while they 
accept the accomplished fact, and disclaim the resis- 
tance which they once offered to its coming, while 
they speak much of truth and open-mindedness and 
progress, of the evils of bigiotry and blindness, their 
attitude towards the position which that idea has reached 
by the time that their first opposition is overcome, is 
the same as that which they adopted] towards its earlier 
form. So that, 'while they take credit for their enlighten- 
ment, pr ogres siveness and liberality in accepting what 
can no longer be disputed or opposed, they are still 
in relation to the march of the idea exactly in the 
same position as they were before. Temperance, 
moderation are the words constantly on their lips, and 
all subsequent advance beyond the milestone where they 
happen to be halting is lamented as excess, intemperate 
and extreme opinion. From stage to stagte oi the 
inevitable growth of one and the same principle we 
find the same situation repeated. Such is the experience 
which daily meets us ^ yet men appear unable to profit 
by its almost tedious repetition. 

.We can here trust the law which governs human 
evolution as implicitly as any physical law, and foresee 
future development as confidently as an astronomer 
predicts an eclipse. It is as impossible; to arrest the 
course of a rational process or principle before its 
uttermost consequences have been exhausted, as it is 
foil a falling stone to remain suspended in mid-air. 
Logical processes know neither compromise, nor 
temperance or moderation. Thus only the extreme view 1 
is right, is destined to survive. 





MAN'S evolutionary victory was won by means which, 
while rooted in the deepest forms of vital activity and 
arising out of them, were yet, in their power and appli- 
cation, novel as paramount instruments of life. They 
no longer consisted in gross modifications of physical 
structure ; instruments and weapons were not, as in 
animal evolution, fashioned out of limbs and organs ; 
directive powers more pliant and subtle enabled man 
to modify his physical environment itself, to shape his 
tools out of it, and spread out the tentacles of his brain. 
His means of evolution were mental ; and, so far as 
he was concerned, the old animal evolution operating 
upon actual bodily structure was at an end. 

It is not infrequently inquired by people to whom 
our soi-disant system of education permits but a casual 
and hearsay acquaintance with evolutionary, science, 
whether we may expect the form of man to undergo 
startling changes, whether he is likely to put forth wings, 
or grow eyes at the back of his head. There is not 
the remotest probability of any such interesting develop- 
ments. His bodily structure is constantly being modified 
by changes in his mode of life, but those modifications 
are of a relatively minor, almost negligible importance ; 
and, to all intents and purposes, his bodily form is 
outside the operation of those causes which brought about 
organic change. 

The products of human evolution, like its means, take 
a different form. They are not physiological organs, 



tl [but ideas, methods, thoughts, habits, theories, devices, 
social organizations. They are not anatomical but 
psychological . 

That circumstance is fraught with consequences of 
gigantic import. The unprecedented nature of the means 
and iproducts of human evolution carries with it an equally 
peculiar method for their transmission from one generation 
to another. 

Those products are not, and cannot be transmitted by 
' ' / way of physiological reproduction. Each successive 
generation must acquire them de novo during its life- 
time. It acquires them solely through the human environ- 
ment in which it is born and develops. Its ideas, its 
conceptions, its ways of thought, its habits, its aims, 
its motives, its morals, are handed down to it by the 
human world, by the human circumstances, the social 
condition, the literature, the state of society in which its 
development takes place. The evolutionary grade of 
development of the new generation is determined, not 
by physiological processes, toot by its place in the 
genealogical tree of the race, but by the nature of the 
human world as a whole, by all the human influences 
which are brought to bear upon it by the entire race. 

Certain aptitudes, capacities of easy acquisition, 
* educability,' predispositions towards Certain types of 
reaction, are doubtless physiologically transmitted ; but 
the actual results of evolution, the actual significant 
achievements which constitute its products can only be 
acquired through the agency of the whole human environ- 
ment. If an English baby were put to nurse with a 
Central African tribe in exchange for a nigger baby, 
and the latter very carefully brought up in England, 
the nigger baby, when he grew up, would be a civilized 
man substantially in possession of the fruits of European 
evolution, and the English baby would b'e a savage. 
Of course the civilized nigger would not be quite 
on a level with the equally educated European, and 
the English savage would differ in some respects from 
his African companions. There would be in both 
characteristics due to physiological heredity, not to human 
environment. But the effect of those physiologically in- 


herited characteristics would, even in so extreme an 
instance, be as nothing compared to the effects of 
education by the environment. So far as the actual 
fruits of human progress, and participation in the process 
are concerned, their respective situations would be re- 
versed. The nigger would be in a position to take a share 
in civilized life, and the Englishman would not. 

' There is widely current a vague belief," justly re- 
marks Dr. W. McDougall, 1 "that the national 
characteristics of the people of any country are in the 
main innate characters. But there can be no serious 
question that this popular assumption is erroneous and 
that national characteristics . . . are in the main ex- 
pressions of different traditions. . . . Relatively to the 
national peculiarities acquired by each individual in virtue 
of his participation in the traditions of his country, the 
innate peculiarities are slight and are almost completely 
obscured in each individual by these superimposed 
acquired characters. . . . Suppose that throughout a 
period of half a century every child born of English 
parents was at once exchanged (by the power of a 
magician's wand) for an infant of the French nation. 
Soon after the close of this period the English nation 
would be composed of individuals of French extraction, 
and the French nation of individuals of English extraction . 
It is, I think, clear that, in spite of this complete exchange 
of innate characters between the two nations, there would 
be but little immediate change of national characteristics. 
The French people would still speak French, and the 
English would speak English, with all the local diversities 
to which we are accustomed and without perceptible 
change of pronunciation. The religion of the French 
would still be predominantly Roman Catholic, and the 
English people would still present the same diversities 
of Protestant creeds. The course of political institutions 
would have suffered no profound change, the conditions 
and habits of the peoples would exhibit only such changes 
as might be attributed to the lapse of time. . . . The 
inhabitants of 'France would still be Frenchmen and 
the inhabitants of England Englishmen to all outward 
1 Social Psychology, p. 329. 


seeming, save that the physical appearances of the two 
peoples would be transposed." 

What is true of even the minor traits which distinguish 
one civilized nation from another is, of course, even 
more clearly and momentously true of civilization itself, 
of the actual fruits of the process of human development 
and progress. 

We hear a great deal about the improvement of the 
race by scientific breeding. In consonance with the 
current pseudo -scientific dogma of ' race/ there is 
no humorous imbecility from which the criers of 
the panacea of ' breed * can be restrained. ' Through 
the selection and regulation of breeding/ as intelligently 
applied as in the case of domestic animals, '(man) will 
control his own destiny and attain moral heights as 
yet unimagined." ' It is more than questionable whether, 
except as regards the stamping out of pathological taints 
(which are amenable to other remedies), eugenists, if 
they were given carte blanche, could achieve anything 
desirable. But the evolutionary products which are de- 
pendent upon physiological heredity are altogether in- 
considerable compared with those which are not dependent 
upon that process. There is something tragically pathetic 
in the zeal displayed for improving the race by the 
control of physiological heredity, while at the same time 
the means by which the products of human evolution 
are in fact transmitted, and which are directly and easily 
amenable to human forethought and management, are 
under present conditions, and under a so -termed 7 system 
of education ' of almost troglodyti^c crudity, abandoned 
to the mercy of chance, or rather stultified and perverted 
to defeat the ends of evolution. 

If we are superior to our woad -painted ancestors, it 
is not so much that we are born with higher qualities, but 
that we are born in a human environment in which the 
achieved results of rational thought have been from 
generation to generation handed down. And those very 
qualities which are physiological and hereditary are them- 
selves correlated with conditions arising from the 
accumulated products of rational power and human 
\ $[. Grant, The Passing of the Great Race, p. 83, 


control. So that even if those slight physiological modi- 
fications could be cultivated, while non-physiological pro- 
gress was arrested through entire neglect, the improve- 
ment of those slight products themselves would tend to 
cease through the drying up of the source whence flow 
the conditions which produced them. 

The products of human evolution are not included 
in the characters which physiological heredity transmits. 
The human world in all its aspects, including every race 
and nation which exercises an influence over others, which 
exchanges thought, opinions and knowledge, contributes 
arts and inventions, including every current estimate and 
conception, and every revolutionary thought, the customs, 
manners and habits which are in vogue, the social or- 
ganization which obtains, all the conditions arising out of 
it, the forms of government, the institutions, the beliefs, 
and above all the types and systems of ideas, the standards 
of honour and of conduct, the point of view, the norms 
of judgment, the sanctions, biases and prejudices shaped 
in accordance with the relations and interests attaching 
to those conditions, that human environment which 
supplies all the contents and powers, shapes all the 
tendencies of every mind which is born and matures in 
its midst that is the carrier of heredity in human 


The word ' humanity * is habitually received with a 
defensive sneer, as if some questionable piece of hollow 
rhetoric, savouring of Anacharsis Klootz and eighteenth - 
century anthropomorphism, were being foisted upon 
one. ' 7s there such a thing as " humanity "? Is the 


similitude of an organism applied to the collection of 
human individuals which together make up the human 
race anything more than a convenient figure of speech? 
What is " humanity " beyond the sum of its component 
individuals? ' 

In regard to the all- important function of transmission 
the conception of humanity as an organic whole is no 
metaphoric abstraction, no loose verbal expression, but 
a sober and accurate scientific fact. Humanity, as a 
whole, is the only organism which transmits the products 
of human evolution. A man does not derive them from 
his parents ; they contribute almost nothing in that 
respect. Every man is born a wild little animal 
susceptible of developing into a howling savage, a man 
of the fifth century, of the fifteenth century, of the 
twentieth, or of the twenty-fifth. It is the vast organism, 
the human world, which makes him what he is, and 
determines to what stage of human evolution he shall 

You cannot actually perceive humanity as a physical 
organism? Try, then, to perceive individual man as a 
mere physical organism apart from humanity. In order 
to do so you must imagine our new-born baby, or 
a dozen of them, transferred at birth, not to a 
savage tribe this ^time, but to a desert island, and 
miraculously enabled to subsist and grow up. What 
will become of the products of human evolution in 
their case? How will individual man, minus humanity, 
compare with the lowest Australian Arunta? Failing 
the transmission by humanity of the products of the 
evolution of humanity that metaphorical abstraction 
you have nothing left, but a very pitiable and impossible 
physical abstraction the individual man. 'Our * com- 
ponent individual ' let him be, fpr choice, eugenically 
bred ,and furnished with the most superior kind of germ- 
plasm will be at the Caliban stage of human 

We are wont to recognize in a loose, casual way that 
we are indebted for certain material advantages and 
conveniences to the human world we live in, to ' society ' ; 
that we are supplied with clothes, and food, and houses, 


and policemen, and books, if we have a mind for such ; 
a debt which it is only fair we should repay by some 
little service. But it is not our clothes, or our food, 
or the roof over our heads that we owe to humanity,, 
it is our being itself. Let that inheritance which 
humanity has bestowed on you be, by a magic 
stroke, cancelled, and instantaneously you cease to 
exist, you shrivel and dissolve like Rider Haggard's 
" She " at the lifting of the spell that gave her eternal 
youth ; you sink and disappear into a blank, dumb 
animal. Nor is it, observe, from any social unit, the 
State, your country, which sends you in its bill for house 
and policeman, and claims gratitude, that you derive 
your existence as a product of evolution ; but from 
nothing less than the human race. To say nothing of the 
contributions of the remote past, from prehistoric culture, 
from Egypt, or Greece, or Rome, at least as much has 
been contributed to our English life to-day, to every 
external and internal aspect of our being, by France, 
by Italy yes, and by Germany, as by England. It* is 
not a question of gratitude, and debts to be paid 
quite detestable as well as admirable items are included 
in the heritage any more than your birth is a 
ground of gratitude towards your parents ; it is merely 
a question of fact. A man's powers of life are 
born out of the loins of humanity. 

And the growth and development of those powers 
can only proceed in relation to that human medium. 
If he carries the process of evolution a step further, 
if he breaks away from the circle of ideas in which he 
finds himself, and casts aside the standards of judg- 
ment which he has inherited, the very impulse which 
animates him is derived from his environment, and its 
range and direction are themselves determined by the 
conditions and spirit of the times.- The reach of his 
practical conduct is even more directly limited than that 
of his thought. For what he judges to be right in the 
relations between man and man cannot be given effect 
to by himself alone, he must adapt himself to the world 
as he finds it. His ideals and aspirations require for 
their realization the co-operation of the whole race. It 



is impossible for one man to be wise in a world 
of fools. 

One of the floundering notions of pre- scientific 
historical philosophizing was the preposterous theory that 
" history is the biography, of great men." It is pre- 
posterous because great frien, like all other men, are 
the products of their human environment ; and if, by 
virtue of the character of that environment, they are 
enabled to go a little way beyond it in clearness of sight, 
they can only influence their age, modify their human 
environment (to retain the biological phrase), by appeal- 
ing to qualities and tendencies much more complex than 
any evolution of which the individual is capable which 
are already present and ripe in the medium which pro- 
duced them. Nowadays we are coming to realize that a 
much more important question than, ' Who was the 
originatpr, the inventor of that idea, of that device? ' is 
* How came that idea to grow-? What is the history of its 
development ? What are the steps by which that discovery, 
that invention evolved? ' In the case of the men whose 
names are associated with the most revolutionary changes 
in human history and ideas, such as Gautama, Muhclm- 
mad, Luther, Columbus, Copernicus, Newton, Watt, 
Darwin, so long and widespread is the mental genealogy 
of precursory ideas, so thoroughly is the influence they 
exercised in harmony with the tendencies and ideas ripen- 
ing in the mental atmosphere and conditions of their 
times, that it is often difficult to say with certainty 
which is their individual contribution and which that of 
the collective agencies of the age ; and that we may in 
many cases doubt whether those' revolutions would not 
have taken place in much the same Way and at the same 
time had they been absent from the stage. Even those 
' supArnen ' whose colossal figures traditionally, loom! 
as the very embodiment of overpowering individualism, 
violating fate itself, diverting with their strong hand the 
course of history, seizing mankind by the hair and curb- 
ing the age to their own masterful will, a Caesar, a 
Napoleon, 1 can on a closer scrutiny be seen to have 

1 See Ferrero, Giulio Cesare, and A. Vandal, L'av&nement de 


been called forth, evoked, created by the operation and 
natural selection of circumstances, to have been drawn 
into and carried away breathlessly by the current of 
events in the stream of which they struggled gasping 
and fearful, and in their boldest hour to have been driven 
by the necessity of an environment whose awful pressure 
they were powerless to withstand. 

As a consequence of the special nature of the products 
of human evolution, and of the fact that the reproductive 
system which transmits them is not in man but in 
humanity, a situation of peculiar difficulty was created, 
and a set of problems and tasks appalling in their 
magnitude was imposed upon the race. ^ 

To individual man the new means of evolution opened 
up new horizons of aspiration and new spheres of de- 
velopment. The power of expanded and keener vision 
ranging over vaster fields of 'relations, while it conquered 
the world of organic struggle, simultaneously threw open 
an entirely new world. His desires, his interests, his joys 
and his cares, his concern in life, his vital needs, 'dilated 
to the dimensions of his expanded horizons. The range 
of perception determines that of feeling ; though reason 
was the sole attribute which made him what he was, 
it unlocked a flood of accentuated passions, of trans- 
figured interests, desires, emotions. The face of life 
was transformed ; the outlook no longer consisted merely 
in a day to day, hour to hour care for its preservation, 
it embraced larger spans of time, came to include the 
whole of existence, birth and death, the succession of 
generations, the relation of it all to the great impassive 
surroundings. He no longer lived by bread alone. The 
range of his desires and wistfulness, the eye of his 
ambitions and aspirations knew no bounds. 

But those hugely expanded powers and possibilities 
of individual development were faced with a new 
opposition. Concurrently with their growth a new con- 
dition of adaptation was imposed upon them. Not only 
were they required to be adapted to physical conditions, 
to the ambient universe, to the various exigencies to 
which all life is subject ; they were in addition required 
to adapt themselves to a new environment, to a new world 


which they had themselves brought into being, to the 
environment of humanity. Apart from that strange new 
organism those powers are non-existent. 

And yet between it and individual man with his vast 
aspirations of development there is of necessity a raging 
conflict. The human environment imposes its exigencies 
and conditions upon the activity and growth of the in- 
dividual with a tyranny as ruthless and as unbending as 
any other form of environment. The categorical im- 
perative of its terms presses upon man no less inexorably 
than that of any physical surroundings, wind, flood, 
cold, and famine, upon the most gelatinous first-born of 
life's broods. He may no less, save at his peril, ignore 

That conflict, that imposed process of adaptation and 
adjustment is the pervading task of human evolution. 
In that process there are in fact two evolutions, the 
evolution of man and that of humanity. The task of 
the latter is no other than the shaping of a new organism, 
of a new form and structure of life. It answers in 
many respects to that which, in the course of organic 
evolution, life achieved when isolated protozoa drew 
gradually together into groups, into polyzoic or- 
ganisms, when diffe rent iat ion of function took place 
among the individual cells, when a multicellular organism, 
such as is man himself, emerged at last from the long 
equilibration. But the human task is greatly more com- 
plex. Its magnitude and difficulty overshadow all other 
problems and all other tasks. Hence the paramount 
place of ethics in human life. 

We shall see that it is precisely through man's failure 
to perceive with clear consciousness the reality of that 
relation and the nature, of that task, that by far the 
largest proportion of his disasters, of the breakdowns 
of his organizations, of his miseries^ and of his perplexities 
has arisen. 



, I 


WITH the character of man's powers of evolution, the 
inevitable cumulative action of rational thought, the 
inherently progressive direction of its path, in clear 
view, it is their failure to achieve_more. ^rather than 
their success, which stands in need of explanation ; and 
we seem called upon to look not so much for the 
manner in which progress has resulted, as for the causes 
that have delayed and obstructed it. And it is, indeed, 
the feeling of that contrast between the conception 
which rational thought so clearly presents of possible 
progress, of ' what ought to be/ and human conditions 
as they actually are, which is the chief and deepest 
source of scepticism as to the reality of progress. 

Man has existed in much the same state of organic 
development for fifty thousand years or more ; and 
yet during much the greater part of that time he 
has remained a miserable savage. During the five 
or six thousand years that he has enjoyed some 
measure of civilized organization, all his arrangements 
have remained to a great extent primitive, his thoughts 
have been for the most part delusions,' and he is still 
at the present day in every aspect of his existence the 
victim of self-imposed conditions which his thought, 
wherever it is even in the slightest degree rationally 
applied, utterly condemns and repudiates. 

That the extent of human progress and the rate at 
which it has taken place do not correspond to the 
power which rational thought places at the disposal 


of the race, is apparent from the general character of 
that progress . We find, in fact, that on a few given 
occasions, when a conjunction of circumstances favour- 
able to the action of rational thought has existed, a 
marked and rapid development has taken place, the 
vigour and fertility of which astonish us when we com- 
pare them to the general rate of advance. What we 
are in the habit of regarding as the beginning of civili- 
zation in the Near East makes its appearance with 
considerable suddenness and swiftly attains its maximum 
of growth. In Egypt, where we can trace continuously 
the evolution of human culture from the most primitive 
stages to a high pitch of development, the transition 
between rude predynastic times and the height of Nilotic 
civilization in the IVth and Vth dynasties cannot have 
occupied more than a very few centuries. In Babylonia, 
where we first meet with a fully developed civilization 
and have found no primitive stages at all, we assume 
that the first steps in culture have taken place elsewhere, 
and that its elements have been transplanted either from 
Iran, or, more probably, from the immediate neighbour- 
hood in the valleys of Elam. But even on that supposi- 
tion the development has been a rapid, a sudden one. 
The first Aryan civilization of India presents much the 
same feature. When we come to the outburst of Hellenic 
culture the rapidity of the gigantic development is one 
which has never ceased to excite wonder. The Islamic 
Arabs developed in the course of a few years a culture 
which has influenced all the subsequent developments 
of Europe, and which, even when we allow for the 
cultural impulse which it inherited from Persia, was 
marvellous in the rapidity of its growth. Our own 
modern civilization has risen out of darkest barbarism 
in the course of three or four centuries. 

The rate of advance of human progress is not uniform. 
It is a succession of phases of rapid growth and expan- 
sion which gradually die down and cease. That is a 
familiar feature. It furnishes the theme of most current 
theories, and civilization is said to proceed by cycles. 

We shall see that there is a definite reason for both 
the rapid growth and the arrest. Whenever there 


is a rapid development of culture there are special 
conditions which favour a new activity and freedom 
of action of thought, whenever there is a slowing down 
and an arrest there are causes that tend to put an 
end to and check the activity. 

If, then, rational thought has not achieved more, it 
is not owing to any intrinsic defect in the method of 
its action, but because its power has only been exercised 
in a very limited measure. Man did not suddenly 
appear in the world as the possessor of a new talismanic 
power with which he forthwith proceeded to conquer 
it ; he has only very gradually learned to use his power 
and to recognize the might which it conferred upon 
him. His growth and progress have proceeded, not 
in relation to the formidable possibilities of the instru- 
ment at his disposal, but in relation to the progress of 
his gradual apprenticeship in its use. 

Accustomed though we now are to thinking evolu- 
tionally, the taint of the ancient notion of sudden, full- 
grown creation still deeply discolours our conceptions 
of human origins . We ask, ' When did man first appear 
on .the earth? ' as if the creature man ever did thus 
suddenly ' appear.' So far as present evidence points, 
the stock destined to develop into the human race must 
have become separated from all, even the more closely 
related, animal stocks so far back as the Miocene period . 
If you insist upon trying to attach some definite measure 
of time to such a statement, you may say something 
like two millions of years ago. But that does not 
mean that our progenitors of two million, , or even of 
one million years ago, were what we should call men. 
Their chief characteristic was a brain somewhat larger 
than is to be met with in any non -human animal, and 1 
somewhat smaller than that of any existing man. The: 
answer to the question, ' When did the proto -human 
stock become human? ' is a purely arbitrary one. The 
brain increased in size, but at what point precisely that 
gradual increase was such as to justify the name ' man,' 
so that one tnight say ' Here the brute ends and man 
begins,' is not at all a matter of objective fact, but 
one of arbitrary values. And, as in all organic evolu- 


tion, there were many ' trials and errors/ many 
ineffectual evolutions leading nowhere. The Neanderthal 
race of Europe, for example large enough brained, well 
skilled in flint -knapping and harbouring some specu- 
lative theological notions, though still horribly ape -like 
in formis generally thought to be such a cul-de-sac 
of human development which ended in complete extinc- 
tion. Even the crudest human brain took hundreds of 
thousands of years to grow, with little to show in the 
way of outward effects, of created human environ- 
ments ; tenatively, haltingly, slowly, painfully, mostly 

As with the biological aspect of man, so it has been 
with his distinguishing power. No human ' faculty ' 
suddenly came into the world, no flashing incarnation 
of 'reason.' Proto-man was at the pinnacle of organic 
evolution, its most successful type, not because he was 
possessed of a ' faculty of reason,' but because he was 
just a little, but only a very little, more intelligent 
than other animals. By virtue of that infinitesimal 
margin of rationality in his dim mental processes his 
further evolution was secured and accomplished. But 
again that must not be understood to mean that primitive 
man was rational, thought to any extent at aU rationally. 
Only in an extremely limited sphere, only now and 
again, only once perhaps in a generation, did a rational 
quality in his thought actually manifest itself and 
effectually pierce through to some little achievement, 
thenceforth to be a permanent inheritance of the race, 
a step in human progress. What progress was achieved 1 , 
was achieved thus, but ihat only happened very seldom. 
Generally speaking, in all but a fewi exceptional circum- 
stances, and in a few rare 'individuals, thought was not 
by any means rational, was not guided by rationality 
at all. 

Ask primitive man, as you still may in the hinter- 
lands of Australia, in the jungle of Ceylon, in the 
Nilgirri Hills of Southern India, why he sets about doing 
such and such a thing, eat, catch fish, make butter, 
in just that uncouth fashion/amid all sorts of fritterings 
of energy, of irrelevant procedures ; he will invariably 


answer, "It is done thus " ; he will give you to under- 
stand that no other procedure can occur to a man 
save that which is the custom ; the strange suggestion 
of any other way would not only strike him as excentric, 
as to you the suggestion that you should walk down 
Piccadilly in a poncho, but positively depraved, as some- 
thing horribly unavowable, unnatural, revolting. 

And in that answer he has told you one of the 
inmost secrets of all human history, of the evolution 
of the human mind. Its lesson is twofold. Early man 
was only infinitesimally rational. All visions of the 
primitive hunter sitting at the mouth of his cave after 
the day's chase, at the coming out of the stars, and 
meditating on the Great Questions : all notions of the 
free and noble savage perpetrating * Social Pacts ' ; 
all assumptions of deliberation, conscious exercise and 
application of thought in primitive man, are the most 
fantastic anachronic fancies. Even to-day not a few 
eminent anthropologists, misled no doubt by the tangled 
accumulation of successive strata in the palimpsest of 
custom, are disposed to credit primitive man with a 
complex mentality, with processes of ratiocination which 
are, I venture to believe, extravagant anachronisms. 
During by far the longest period of man's development 
the question ' How? ' or * Why? ' simply did not 
enter his head. His procedure in life sought no assist- 
ance or sanction from any conscious rationality. Of 
course now and again, in special crises, by the dim 
horse-sense of the mob, or the particular cerebration 
of some old wise -head, human action did get rough - 
hewn in some vaguely rational way, and even custom 
was transgressed and transcended ; else there could 
have been no change, no progress. But that action 
of rational thought was in the highest measure excep- 
tional. Primitive man does not think at all unless 
driven by direst need ; he does not think a step beyond 
the actual and immediate necessities of the case. No 
spark of thought ever issues from his reluctant brain 
unless under the insistent hammer -strokes of urgent 
realities . 

And in the second place we learn that what, from 


the very beginning, stood in the way of the development 
of rational thought was no intrinsic impotence, nor con- 
fronting complexity of its task, but a monstrous obstacle 
which its own rudimentary perception had set up. ,Frorn 
the very first man stemmed the growth of his own 
thought by absolute surrender to established custom. 
The direst despotism ever imposed upon the human Imind 
by the dogmatism of a Dominican Inquisition, is mild 
and lax compared to the unrelenting grip of that tyranny 
to which, throughout its early development, the human 
race was bond. In the state of nature all men are 
born slaves. No procedure in human life, no act, no 
juxtaposition of ideas in man's mind had any other 
sanction, any other motive or mental basis, than the 
unchallenged authority of precedent. The bare possi- 
bility of departure from it did not, as a rule, occur at 
all ; but, if it did, it was an unavowable thought, in- 
spiring a shudder of horror, as something unspeakably 
indecent, a sin against nature. 

We are, of course, familiar with the incubus of custom 
and herd -thought amongst ourselves. But, salient as 
the trait still is in our psychology, it is only dimly 
representative of the bondage of the savage mind. Our 
conformity has, generally speaking, grown more 
conscious and motived, our assent to custom more 
voluntary ; we submit to it in things that matter 
little, we submit to it through a conscious desire not 
to be strange and conspicuous, not to give offence, 
or from an intentional wish to hunt with the pack. 
With primitive man the bondage was absolute ; it was 
an unconscious reaction, an innate inertia, a total absence, 
of initiative. It did not govern thought, but stood as 
a substitute in its stead. In the beginning all thought 
was a revolt and a sacrilege. 

In trying to express in our modern language that 
tyrannous authority of custom in primitive psychology, 
the word * sacred ' naturally occurs to us ; we say 
that custom was ' sacred.' And that of course suggests 
the idea of religion. As a matter of fact, the imitative- 
ness of primitive man has just as much to do with 
religion as the imitativeness of a monkey playing tricks, 


or of -sheep jumping through a gap in the hedge. It is 
a biological inertia. Religion, and much else besides 
religion, did, it is true, ultimately become connected 
with the sanctity of custom ; and that sanctity was in 
fact the seed from which religion did arise. But that 
takes us on to a quite later stage of development, to 
an altogether more advanced phase of human evolution. 
4 Sanctity,' if we must use the word, was long anterior 
to any religious idea. The ritualism of life existed 
for untold ages ere ever a thought even remotely re- 
sembling religious myths or ideas came into the world ; 
ceremony is much older than any meaning attached t 
it, than any dogma or any theology. Custom was 
inviolable as custom and nothing else ; that inviolability 
was not so much consciously felt, assented to, as un- 
questioningly acted upon. 

4 When conscious explanation, interpretation appears, 
we have reached a further distinct stage of evolution. 
When that phase comes, custom in some of its aspects 
has already begun to appear * strange.' Other and 
different customs have been met with in other tribes, 
the possibility of an alternative procedure has dawned 
on the mind ; adherence to customary procedure has 
ceased to be altogether and purely automatic ; the feel- 
ing of sanctity attached to it has become conscious ; 
the attention has been awakened ; some customs have 
even got so far as to strike one as somewhat absurd. 
An explanation, an interpretation, a new sanction for 
it is required. And so some story, some theory is 
woven round the procedure which serves to justify and 
restore its authority. In time that explanation will 
acquire ,from custom a certain derivative 4 sanctity/ 
and it will thus become a religious myth or theory. 
But the authority of custom purely and simply as such, 
unconsciously obeyed, is far older and far greater than 
that of any religious idea. 

The stability of custom -thought was maintained by 
the organization of the society in which it ruled, and, 
acting in a vicious circle, it served in turn to maintain 
that organization. If all men were born slaves they 
were at least born equal ; and no individual dared rise 


above that herd-equality ; ; nor was there any inducement 
to do so. We are in the habit of assuming that human 
society has always been organized, in all essential 
respects, in very much the same manner as it is now. 
That is pure illusion. The present order and all those 
features which we regard as fundamental of it are 
comparatively recent. Primitive society was constituted 
on an altogether different basis. We speak of the 
family as the foundation of society ; we imagine vaguely 
the first human associations as formed by the for- 
gathering of family groups of fathers, mothers and 
children, such as those still customary among arboreal 
apes. All that is erroneous neologistic fancy. Man- 
kind did not begin or propagate in families, but, like 
all hunting animals, in herds or packs. Man, like his 
nearer congeners, was originally a vegetarian. The 
hunting and eating of animals was probably one of 
the first fruits of his intelligence, and it was the source 
of his social organization. He could not advantageously 
use his superior cunning without assistance ; he could 
not, for all his new-fangled stone weapons and cleverly 
contrived pitfalls, conveniently tackle a woolly rhinoceros 
or a bison or a wild ass single-handed. And if he did 
succeed in killing such game, it was not likely that 
the hungry humanity about him would allow him to 
eat it by himself. Moreover, he could not count on 
continuous luck ; it was his obvious interest to share 
and be allowed to partake with others. The human 
herd was a necessary consequence, not of any * social 
instinct ' or * gregariousness,' and desire for com- 
panionship, but of the hard facts of food-quest. The 
human society of the bison -men and wild -ass -men was 
one of food groups strictly determined by the available 
quarry, or totem, and the means of procuring it. 

The animal who supplied man with this new delight- 
ful and invigorating food was likewise his first god. 
The pleasant and beneficial effects of the new diet were 
ascribed by man to the assimilation, not of the animal's 
proteids, but of his strength, his life, his spirit. For 
the * lord of creation ' was totally unconscious of his 
sovereignty, and thought, on the contrary, that the huge, 


snorting, robust, swift, wild animal was a 'far finer fellow 
than a poor, lanky, weak, naked, semi-monkey like him- 
self. And quite rightly too. The native denizen of 
the wild was in every obvious respect far better adapted 
to his surroundings than the arboreal animal who had 
left the jungle to hunt him. Primitive^ .man believed 
in evolution from self-conceit ; he wished to believe 
that he~was descended Trbm Ihe bison or the ass whose 
strength and agility he admired, and he was ambitious 
to be like him. The countless pictures of animals which 
we meet with in palaeolithic caves are not sporting 
pictures, but religious pictures. Eating the god in 
common in order to be like him, to partake of his 1 
spirit, was the first religious rite, and it was the consecra- \ 
tion of the tribal bond. Sacrifice was not originally 
offered to the god, but the god himself was sacrificed 
and gave his life to his people. The first origin of 
religion was not animistic, but gastronomic? Animism 
belongs to a more advanced stage of development. 
Primitive man, we are told by some anthropologists, is, 
like the child, spontaneously animistic, ascribes to all 
external objects a like personality to his own. That 
may be so, but that spontaneous animism does not come 
into play unless called forth by circumstances. And 
primitive man does not think at all beyond the immediate 
suggestion of the matter in hand, does not go out of 
his way to spin theories and fairy tales. His first 
interest is in his food. And the first thing which he 
regards with interest, with love, with reverence all those 
psychological distinctions merge into one vague senti- 
ment in rudimentary mentality the first ' sacred ' thing, 
in short, is his food, the animal which he eats ; as later 
it will be the corn, the bread he lives by, and also his 
weapon, his axe. Later the idea of sanctity attached 
to the totem animal leads man to abstain from killing 
it or eating it except ceremoniously on special occa- 
sions ; but the ceremonial eating, the communion service, 
always survives to mark the original meaning. It is 
only when he came to realize that he was really superior 
to the animals, when he had tamed and domesticated 
them, that any animistic ideas entered into his head, 


that he became anthropomorphic, and began to mak< 
gods in his own image. 

For some reason that has not yet been satisfactorily 
explained whether to avoid perpetual conflicts, or fron 
the fascination of the ' strange woman ' the custon 
obtained in the totemic tribe of marrying out of it 
The tribe, the food -group that fed together, was thi 
family, its females were sisters and tabu, its member 
were brothers and one flesh, the flesh of the totem 
Hence the absolute equality, hence the closeness an< 
sacredness of the bond of custom -thought ; that sacred 
ness was linked with the vital interests of food an< 
existence which hung on the observance of tabus an< 
conformity of action. Life was a series of observances 
like our * superstitions ' not to walk under a laddei 
not to sit thirteen at table, to raise one's ha 
to a magpie or to the new moon, not to cut short 
bread with a knife, etc. Such was the mode of operatic; 
of the mind of primitive man, the iron circle in whicl 
he moved. And it is against the crushing weight o 
custom irrationalism that the primitive evolution c 
humanity has taken place. Can it be wondered tha 
it was slow and prolonged? 



Custom -thought has not, however, been the only, no 
by any means the chief obstacle to the development o 
rational thought. 

The most gigantic revolution in human histor) 
a revolution surpassing in magnitude ; the wildes 


delirium of reconstructive imagination, took place some 
six thousand years ago when in some parts of the world 
what we call the civilized state was established. The 
immemorial order under which mankind had existed for 
hundreds of millenniums was completely broken up and 
transformed from its foundation. The tribe was 
supplanted as a social unit by the private family, 
communism by private ownership and private heritage, 
herd-equality by class and individual power. 

It is out of that revolution and out of the differentia- 
tion of powers and interests which it brought about, 
that a new obstacle to rational thought arose even 
more formidable than custom- thought. 

Power wielded by man over his fellow-men constitutes 
a means of control over life, beyond all comparison 
more potent than all the forces at the disposal of 
individual man and all the instruments he can devise. 
To. have your dinner brought to you is hugely more 
satisfactory than to go out on to the moors and catch 
it. Useful as are flint-axes, bone needles, weapons 
and tools, hand and brain, to get other people to use 
them for you is an enormous improvement on using 
them yourself. Not tools and weapons, but men them- 
selves become the instruments of the holder of power. 
iWith that discovery, with the possibility of its practical 
application, a gigantic new force and new factor, over- 
shadowing all others, was introduced in the evolution of 
humanity. laldaboth, the god of power, entered the 
world and took possession of it. The efficiency and 
advantages of human instruments of power over tools 
and weapons, are so enormous that the supreme con- 
sideration which takes precedence over all others, is to 
maintain and increase that invaluable power, that 
authority; to use not the original endowments and 
instruments of victory of the creature man, not rational 
thought, not the control which is by virtue of its adaptive 
power to facts exercised over the world man lives in, 
but to use men. 

How can that be effected, how is power wielded 
over men, how can they be used as instruments? 
Innumerable are the forms and degrees of such power; 


the natural commanding superiority of the leader, hi 
wisdom, his valour, knowledge, rank of birth, th 
physical force of the race of conquerors, divine authority 
power with the gods, property, wealth, the constitute 
authority of the social order, the delegated power c 
office. But whatsoever that form, that fact of powe; 
an idea, an order of ideas on whi'ch it rests and b 
which it is justified, lies at its foundation. Establishe 
authority over men is, like every other product of huma 
evolution, the embodied manifestation of thought. 

A new mechanism is hence introduced in the operatic 
of the human mind. In the primitive herd, if thougl: 
is unconceivably sluggish, if it is an utter slave to custon 
it is uniform and single-eyed. There is, no conflict c 
discrepancy in its motives. Its uniformity may be th 
uniformity of apathy, but when it is by circumstance 
stimulated to action, its motive, the interest at play i 
the same for every member of the herd. Individuc 
interest and herd-interest are identical. It is my interes 
that we should secure a good bag of game in whic 
we shall all share. But as soon as primitive 
is broken up and differentiation of power takes plac< 
there comes about a corresponding differentiation c 
interests. The interests of the power-holders are n 
longer identical with those of the herd. And accordingl 
a corresponding divergence arises in the motivation, i 
the object and function of thought. 

The utilitarian function of thought is to enlighte 
man as correctly as possible as to his situation and hi 
ways and means. It must, in order to discharge tha 
function, desire to achieve correspondence with fact; 
desire to judge and discover what relation actually doe 
obtain between him and his environment. That i 
rational thought, that is its purpose and,' function. Bu 
from; the moment that differentiation of interests an< 
powers is introduced, that function is radicall 
disturbed. It is not the facts of the environment whic 
it are now man's weapons and tools, which have to b 
k discovered and used, but men, men's minds. Not t( 
harmonize and correspond with facts as they are is no\ 
the object of thought, but to harmonize and corresponc 


with the order, of ideas on which power and authority 
rest. That fundamental order of ideas becomes the neces- 
sary postulate of all thought. Henceforth the criterion of 
every mental process is not its intrinsic validity, but 
its relation to that idea, to that situation of power and 
authority. That is the sole touchstone by which every 
judgment, every value, every thought is tested. All 
that tends to undermine it is false, bad; all that 
tends to consolidate and confirm it is true, good. The 
motive, the criterion of thought is changed in its founda- 
tion, its function is diverted and transformed. Its 
aim and purpose is now not to fulfil its original cog- 
nitive function, but to frustrate it. Thought suffers 
from a functional disease. It is no longer; rational 
thought, it is power -thought. 

There is, of course, in every man that contamination 
of thought by irrelevant emotion and fathering wish, that 
personal equation which insidiously deflects and vitiates 
judgment. But those idols of the cave are compara- 
tively unimportant. Unimportant and negligible beside 
the formidable force which has deformed and distorted 
human thought throughout the course of its develop- 
ment. The entire world of human ideas, language, 
values, has been shaped and moulded by it. 

That tragic infirmity is no congenital disease of the 
mind, no constitutional weakness ; it is an artifact, a 
manufactured product of the human order, of human 
society, like its institutions, armies, thrones and temples. 
It is like those a product arising out of the crystalliza- 
tion of power and interest around dominant sections of 
the social organism. 

The disease is absolutely inevitable and incurable. 
No amount of good intentions can save the holder of 
any form of power from its fatal ravages. It is not 
a question of wickedness or unscrupulousness, it is a 
question of rigid psychological mechanics. The power- 
holder can no more divest himself of power -thought 
than the rich man can enter the kingdom of heaven. 

The question in what measure the falsification is 
deliberate and conscious, though interesting, is not 
essential. An enormous amount of falsified power - 



thought, by far the largest proportion, is sincere, subcon- 
scious, well-intentioned self-deception, an hypertrophied 
personal equation. But we are too prone, I think, 
in our tolerant, euphemistic way euphemism and 
historical tolerance are themselves forms of self-defensive 
power-thought in ages of criticism to minimize in that 
process the part of deliberate fraud. Wherever we 
have access to detailed historical evidence we come 
upon deliberate fraud. And opportunity abounds of 
observing the process in our own midst. There is very 
little of the ' sub -conscious/ for instance', in the 
directions of a Prussian government to its university 
professors, or of a Fleet Street editor to his leader- 
writer, or in all the ' education of public opinion ' by 
vested interests. There is, from the witch-doctor and 
the Pompeian priest's speaking trumpet, down to our 
own day, a vast amount of intellectual fraud which' 
is not to be wholly emphemized away. The old 
' imposture ' theory has perhaps been unduly dis- 
credited. But it is, in general, impossible to draw any 
shar'p line of demarcation between conscious and 
unconscious falsification of thought. * Imposture ' may 
mean no more than that ingenious opinions have a 
tendency to flow in the channel of interest. The priestly 
class is favourably inclined to mythology, in the same 
way as kings are usually royalists, and stock-jobbers 
are not commonly social reformers. Daily we may 
see everywhere about us laldaboth engaged in his 
Procrustean task ; facts, arguments, valuations are 
adjusted, lopped or stretched, suppressed or suggested 
on the iron bed of his interests. Older and immemorial 
falsifications have arisen in much the same manner, 
and have long become * immutable principles,' 
'truths,' 'ideals,' for which men are willing to lay 
down their lives. 

Power-thought is fully justified to itself, is a duty, 
a virtue. The sanctity of sound principles, the prin- 
ciples upon which the existing order rests, is manifest. 
It would be clearly culpable to abet dangerous 
tendencies of thought, to dwell on facts which might 
impress mislea<Jingly, which people in their weakness 


and ignorance would fail to interpret soundly. It would 
be a betrayal of their welfare, of our human duty, to 
countenance the dissemination of poison. Nay, it is 
culpable in ourselves to allow the mind to dwell on 
facts, views, which would tend to sap our principles, 
it is our honest duty to exclude them. And if a slight 
modification in the complexion of facts conduces to 
the general soundness, the healthy, wholesome dispo- 
sition of opinion, so much the better. Do not our 
most reputed philosophers at the present day present 
to us, as the modest conclusion of their straining 
meditation, the cogent argument that, since we have to 
live under existing conditions, we should believe 
anything that will help us to do so? That is the 
' Practical Reason,' Pragmatism. 

Like many biological processes, the falsifying* opera- 
tion of power-thought, beginning perhaps as deliberate 
action, rapidly becomes spontaneous, automatic. All of 
the nature of deliberate intellectual dishonesty, even if 
at first dimly present, very soon wholly disappears ; and 
without any consciousness of prejudice, with the 
fullest conviction and purpose of moral and intellectual 
rectitude, power-thought operates with vulpine astuteness 
in a medium of stainless integrity and candour. Fraud, 
indeed, more or less deliberate, is not at all the 
essential or essentially significant and afflicting feature 
of the process. The mechanism of thought itself is 
invalidated, thought is poisoned in its vitals. Every 
fact is seen through a refracting medium ; every judg- 
ment is coloured, every conclusion deflected, every point 
of view falsified, every issue prejudiced in a given 
sense. The workings of the mind are distorted; all 
intellectual counters are counterfeit ; men think by means 
of ideas stamped with spurious values ; their vocabulary, 
the import of words is a part of the falsified mental 
worlds in which they move. About every sphere of 
authority, of power, of interest, there grows up an 
atmosphere of constituted opinions and mental attitudes, 
whose nature is determined not by rational thought, 
but by power- thought. Whole generations of views 
and values are engendered, complete mental worlds are 


evolved which extend their influence not only where 
the original interests are involved, but over multitudes 
whose mental growth has taken place within that 

There is one quarter at least where power-thought 
is always and absolutely sincere, with those namely on 
whom the power is exercised. It is, of course, chiefly in 
view of them that power -thought operates ; although 
the -power-holder himself desires and requires the 
countenance of power-thought. Its primary object is 
to influence the minds of ,those who are used as the 
instruments of power, they must be made to see 
the advantages, the justness, the reasonableness, the 
necessity of the arrangements by virtue of which 
authority is held, the harmony of thenl with the order 
of the universe, the falsity, the wickedness of any view 
out of harmony with that authority. And power-thought 
is brilliantly justified by the sincerity, the conviction, 
the enthusiasm, with which it is accepted and honoured 
by the servants of power, by the devotion and loyalty 
with which they are prepared to die in its defence. 
So complete is the success that even the very opponents 
and critics of power-thought, when such arise, are 
themselves so steeped in it that it is quite impossible 
for them to shake themselves free of its influence; the 
whole formation of their mind is found to be the 
product of power -thought, and the very weapons which 
they would direct against the holders of power recoil 
upon themselves. 

The sphere of power-thought is ' the choir of heaven 
and furniture of the earth,' the entire edifice of human 
thought, knowledge, and valuation. The holders of 
power have been the civilizers of mankind, its teachers, 
its educators ; its conceptions, language, ideas, are in 
an enormous measure their creation . From our mothers' 
lips we have learned power -thought, and our youth 
has been thrilled with its echoes from the mouths of 
our heroes. 




The evolution of rational thought, then, has not been a 
process of gradual growth and unfolding of its power of 
dealing with the natural 1 problems of its task, but a 
contest against non-rational thought, against the accumu- 
lated force of custom-thought and power -thought. 

The natural difficulties of rational thought were in 
themselves sufficiently great . The instrument which had 
evolved from such humble beginning's, as an elabora- 
tion of the organs of sense, as a tactical method of 
fencing with the simple material contingencies of 
animal existence, became confronted with problems of 
far other complexity and vastness, problems seemingly 
pertaining to another order. It was called upon to deal 
with the problems of life, not the mere organic life 
of the wild, but life transmuted by virtue of that very 
vision which looked before and after, darted beyond 
the ' here ' and * now ' to infinity and eternity, brought 
tears and laughter into the world, tinging it with the 
hues of new emotions; life expanded out of all recog- 
nition, ravelled beyond all calculation by a thousand 
new relations. Problems that grew ever more complex, 
problems of new adjustments and co-ordinations, of 
a new polyzoic organism which out of man was being 
fashioned into hum'anity, problems implicating in their 
widening circle ever further problems, positing at last as 
a postulate to their interpretation, life, the universe, their 
nature and meaning. 

Was that poor, pedestrian quality of thought at all 
competent to deal with that new, amazing world it had 
called up? Strictly speaking, yes. The situation does 
not exist in which rational thought is not possible j 
not by omnipotently answering all questions, but by 
severely assessing the legitimacy and validity of its 
answer even though that answer be, as in many cases 
it needs must be, ' I do not know ' and resolutely 
repudiating the validity of all other answers. In that 
sense is a rational answer possible to every rational 


question ; the estimate of the order of certainty, 
probability, greater or less consistency of the hypothesis 
with larger or smaller arrays of ascertained facts, being 
a (part integral of every rational judgment. And the 
method of reason, having evolved and approved itself 
by unbroken correspondence with relations, not with 
entities, applies with equal validity whatsoever the sphere 
of its action. 

To such judicial rectitude of purpose the original 
rudimentary rationality of man could, of course, only 
attain through a long and laborious evolution. There 
needed the slow* garnering 4 of empirical data, agelong 
experience, the gradual perfecting of methods, the costly 
unmasking of countless pitfalls besetting the path of 
thought, and foredooming it to fallacies only to be 
refined away by successive lustral Waves of critical 
discipline. To cope at all effectually with the complex 
task imposed upon it, thought has had to battle 
against formidable difficulties, to wrestle grimly with 
its own intractabilities, to gain strengith and confidence 
by a prolonged process of growth. 

But in human evolution the essential feature that 
actually presents itself to us is not that process! of 
growth. It is not that battle of rational thought with t 
the natural difficulties of its task. Seldom indeed has 
such good fortune befallen man as to be permitted to 
wage that straightforward fight ; whenever it has been 
granted him, he has acquitted himself with singular 
ease, and the issue has been for him a triumphant 
victory. Human evolution has indeed been a long 
and arduous battle, but against quite other forces. It 
is against obstacles which it has itself erected that 
the mind of man has been fated to war and struggle. 
Not the" difficulties of the problems set before it, not 
the infirmities of reason have resisted and crippled its 
action, but man-made, artificial obstacles, deformities 
forcibly, traumatically inflicted upon it in a constant 
and determined effort to paralyse it. In the conflict 
which constitutes the evolution of humanity, the 
antagonist of rational 1 thought 'has been thought falsified 
by custom and by the interests of power. 


That conflict is the theme of history. From the 
dawn of civilization to this day, under innumerable 
aspects and names, and in every field, the wavering, 
age-long battle has raged. Politics and religion, industry 
and commerce, science, art, philosophy, literature, life, 
love, have been convulsed in the throes and vicissitudes 
of the ceaseless contest. Against the sole power and 
means which man possesses of gauging his position, 
of directing his action, have been arrayed all the ideas, 
all the conceptions, all the traditional judgments and 
valuations, shaped by the desire and interests of those 
to whom those interests and desires, not the laws that 
constitute its validity" and ^efficiency, were the tests of 

It is not between Error and Truth that the secular 
contest is waged what is Truth? .Who so imbued with 
error as to deem himself pure therefrom? It is not 
those figmentally abstracted entities which through the 
ages face one another in the world of mind; but two 
ethics of the mind, two methods of conduct, two ways 
of putting to human use man's instrument of thought 
the one concerned with the discharge of its function, 
the other with turning its edge, and deflecting it from 
that function, in order to place it in the service of 
another purpose. 

Man has had much to learn, but he has had even 
more to unlearn. It is not so much with the riddles 
posited by the Sphinx of life that thought has had to 
deal, as with answers and solutions already established 
in possession and strenuously proclaiming their validity. 
Hence the function of rational thought has been critical 
rather than constructive. Man's chief task has not 
been to build, but to destroy. But such have 
been the conditions of human evolution that to tear 
down is to discover, to destroy is to liberate. Human 
thought has shown itself competent enough to fulfil 
its function whenever it has been set free. Freedom 
is not, as it has become the fashion to consider, 
an empty shibboleth, but the condition of human 





IN two ways, and, so Jar as I know, in two ways only, 
has any process ever been initiated by which the walls 
and fetters of custom!- and power-thought have come to 
be broken : by the material products of discovery and 
) | invention, and by the cross-fertilization of cultures. 

Inventions and discoveries are the one form of attack 
before which the yielding of conservative forces is swift 
and their struggle feeble. We know how modern science 
has been throughout its career persistently cried down, 
first as unclean magic and black art, later as impiety 
and pride of intellect, at best despised as vain, irrelevant 
speculation. Nothing is more certain than that natural 
science, had its function been confined to inquiry and 
interpretation, to increase of knowledge, to perfecting 
man's means of thought and understanding of his position 
in this universe, would never have survived the opposition 
which confronted it. It was saved, from the first by its 
utilitarian bearing and material fruits. The develop- 
ment of mathematic's and' astronomy, 'which at first sub- 
served the uses of agriculture, rendered commercial and 
imperialistic expansion possible. Experimental science 
in the form of alchemy was universally thought to hold 
out the promise of no less wealth. The ultimate triumph 
of science was achieved when its powers revolutionized 
the material and economic world 'and created everywhere 
new physical and wealth-producing faculties. As thought, 
as a contribution to the interpretation of the world, as 
a weapon of the intellect, no order of ideas could have 


aroused more rancorous detestation ; no abomination 
could call more clearly for vigorous and ruthless stamp- 
ing out. But its material gifts could not be rejected. 
It laid golden eggs. Even that most detestable and 
pernicious of all offences to custom-thought and power- 
thought had perforce to be tolerated, to be to some 
extent respected,: to be in some excruciating manner 're- 
conciled ' with, and reluctantly and painfully accepted. 

As with modern science as a means of utilitarian 
discovery and invention, so it has been from the very 
first with every step of material progress. Whatever 
the sanctity of custom, whatever the shuddering horror 
with which any departure from its hard and fast estab- 
lished precedent is regarded, the sacrilege is excused, the 
horror is silently overcome whenever a clear material ad- 
vantage presents itself. The tale is told how the Dyaks of 
Borneo, whose cross-grain method of felling trees was held 
as ritually sacred and not to be departed from save under 
dire penalty, adopted the European way of cutting out 
wedges when no one was looking. In the same manner 
has every utilitarian inventive sacrilege prevailed. The 
discovery of the means of producing fire was adopted, 
though silent disapproval was signified by colleges of 
priests and vestals continuing to tend the sacred hearth. 
Metals were adopted, though a protest was lodged by con- 
tinuing to use stone tools for all ritual purposes, sacrifices, 
circumcision, embalming. The invention of the bow and 
arrow was adopted, though it* was denounced as a weapon 
only fit for treacherous cowards like the ' insulting 
archer * Paris, just as firearms were adopted though 
' an invention of the devil,' destructive of all nobility 
and chivalry. 

Nor is the disruptive action of material inventions 
by any means confined to the mere fact of their accept- 
ance ; its effect extends in far-reaching and undreamed- 
of consequences. As the industrial revolution brought 
about by modern science has transformed not only the 
material, but every aspect of the social and mental world, 
redistributing all powers and authorities, and hurling 
successive tides of destructive criticism against all estab- 
lished values and systems of thought, so almost every 


new invention has in all ages been the cause of a similar 
world-shaking revolution. The domestication of animals 
dealt the death-blow to totemic society, and probably 
led the way to animistic anthropomorphism. The bow 
and arrow, the metals, upset every balance of power, 
changed the laws of human distribution on the planet, 
and raised the issues between war-lord and priest that 
shall lead to : Canossa' and Kulturkampf. The perfecting 
of writing made large empires possible. Navigation made 
and unmade them, created and transformed cultures. 
Agriculture changed the fajce of the earth and of human 
relations more completely than did steam and electricity. 

Material progress is the product of rational thought, 
and of it alone. 

Of all fields of human activity, that of mechanical 
advance is the only one where rationality does not admit 
of being trifled with. You cannot introduce the gentle 
arts of sophistry and self-deception into a mechanical 
device. Your machine is absolutely impervious to the 
influence of fine theories, sacrosanct conventions, high, 
consecrated sentiments. All the subtle misrepresentations, 
the conspiracies of silence, the eloquent appeals to pre- 
judice, the plausible phrases, the bland casuistries, which 
have such fine scope in every other field of human thought, 
are here rudely and inexorably debarred. A machine 
is an irreclaimable rationalist. It is obdurately and 
shockingly indifferent to the obvious distinctions between 
respectable and vulgar, moral and immoral opinions. 
It refuses to be bamboozled. There is no orthodoxy or 
heterodoxy in mechanics ; there is no conscience clause ; 
there is utter disregard of the sacred rights of opinions 
entitled to respect, of the susceptibilities of tender feel- 
ings. Hence the horror of certain minds for machinery ; 
hence are the words ' mechanical ' and ' mechanism ' 
the worst terms of obloquy in the language. If you 
wish to obtain a certain mechanical result, you must 
strictly and absolutely, and with no saving phrases or 
reservations, conform to facts as they are. If you do 
not it is your own loss : your machine will not work. 




All those conditions by which progress has been pro- 
moted have either been opportunities of leisure for the 
development of thought, and of power for its embodiment 
in action, or have brought about its diffusion and the 
interaction of its products. Of the action of the former 
class of conditions we shall presently have occasion to 
note examples ; the latter constitute by far the most 
important and potent agency by which human 'advance has 
been aided. 

The development of the means by which thought is 
communicated, recorded 4 transmitted, and disseminated, 
marks the broad outlines of the course of human evolu- 
tion. Articulate language, writing, and printing, are 
the three cardinal milestones in the growth of the means 
of progress. The effect has in each case been precisely 
comparable, relatively to the collective organism of the 
race, to that of the growth of more extensive fibrillar 
connections between the nervous elements of the brain, 
which constituted the physiological aspect of man's 
emergence. There is good ground for believing 
that speech was a comparatively late development in 
the evolution of primitive man, and it doubtless brought 
about an unrecorded revolution in the far-off ages of 
prehistory as momentous as did the development of writ- 
ing in Egypt and Babylonia, its simplification in Crete 
and Greece, the introduction of paper by the Arabs, 
and the invention of the printing press in modern Europe. 
Each was a further stage in the establishment of a 
nervous system bringing thought into contact with thought, 
linking up the operations of individual minds, opening 
up innumerable circuits of mental reaction, laying human 
thought and opinion bare to the fertilizing sun and 
weather of criticism, discussion, opposition, and public 
judgment ; diffusing over wider spheres and building up 
the common consciousness of humanity. 

In like manner has every development of the means 
of travel been marked by a leap in the rate of 


advance. First the great land migrations, the advent 
of Neolithic races, the invasions of the bearers of brass 
and of iron ; then the rise of seafaring with the Minoans, 
its inheritance and development by Phoenicians and 
Greeks, its further momentous extension at the time 
of the rebirth of Europe by the Arabs, which", as 
Minoan seamanship had led to Greek culture -contacts 
and growth, brought about the new era of Portuguese, 
Spanish, and Italian navigation, and the expansion of 
Europe to the four continents. Finally the abolition of 
distance in the modern age. 

Even the great wars of conquest which we have grown 
to regard as the supreme scourge of a martyred world, 
which, for us, are no longer enhaloed in the splendour 
of apotheosis and glory, and emblazoned with the pomp 
of pageantry, but appear, on the contrary, as apocalyptic 
visions of devastation and death, riding amid conflagration 
and ruin, famine and pestilence, over the mown corpses 
of a slaughtered humanity have, as a matter of fact, 
been factors of progress of the first moment, tearing 
down the barriers of fatal isolation, forcibly bringing 
together the scattered members of humanity, and diffusing 
the heritage of thought. The Persian empire welded the 
Asiatic cultures, the Alexandrian empire created the Hel- 
lenistic world and fertilized it for ever ; the Roman empire 
furnished the indispensable condition of all subsequent 
progress and made the modern world passible ; the 
Napoleonic wars awakened Europe from its feudal and 
dynastic slumbers, gave it new life and a new conscious- 
ness, and initiated a new phase of its growth. 

Everywhere we see progress born of the conjunction and 
cross-fertilization of cultures, from the clash of outlooks 
and ideas. Under the dominant obsession of the racial 
view of history the doctrine has been put forth that 
success in civilization is the result of the intermixture oi 
races. iWhat ground or logical pretext there is for such 
a hypothesis Heaven and Professor Petrie only know 1 It 
is suggested, I suppose, by some remote reminiscence 
of the process of reproduction in certain flowering plants, 
The facts belie it at every turn ; for, while there is 
no such thing as a ' pure ' race, we find races of re- 


latively conspicuous * purity ' as foremost contributors 
to progress alongside of the most obviously ' mixed ' 
races, and vice versa. The ancient Greeks, the greatest 
builders of civilization, were, in spite of views to the 
contrary arising out of the multitude of tribal names, 
of no more significance than the term ^olians, a com- 
paratively pure race ; while the mediaeval and modern 
Greeks, perhaps the most striking example of falling 
off from ancestral excellence, are profoundly hetero- 
geneous. The Egyptians, the Chaldasans, the 
Romans, the Japanese, are all comparatively * pure ' 
races. The Sicilians, the Spaniards, the Balkan peoples, 
none of whom appear, as races, as prominent contributors 
to civilization, are extreme examples of ' mixed ' races . 
For most of those, on the other hand, to whom ' purity ' 
of race is the ' open sesame ' of human evolution, the 
tall, long-skulled, fair-haired, blue -eyed northerner is the 
ideal bearer of all the world's achievements and values ; 
and it is rightly agreed that this incomparable human 
stock is to-day, and has for ages been found in its 
greatest purity in the Scandinavian peninsula, an ex- 
tremely estimable country which, however, there appears 
no reason for numbering among the leading lights 
of human progress. It is not from the intermixture 
of races that, in some recondite, unintelligible manner, 
cultural development and human achievement arise, but, 
for very obvious and apprehensible reasons, from the 
intermixture and cross-fertilization of cultures, of civili- 
zations, of ideas. 


It is a direct consequence, the most momentous conse- 
quence, of the peculiar mode of transmission of the 


products of human evolution, that that evolution cannot 
proceed in a sporadic, isolated, segregated form, by way 
of individuals, of races, of states or nations, of civili- 
zations, of esoteric and class cultures. Nothing short 
of the co-ordinated growth of humanity as a whole can 
satisfy the conditions of the process. 

In every form of evolution active progress is at work 
in a limited minority only ; there is somewhere a grow- 
ing-point which is but an infinitesimal fraction of the 
whole. So that, as Sir Henry Maine puts it, " progress is 
the exception, stagnation is the rule." But that exception 
is itself a rule in this sense, that it is always there. All 
evolution from the amoeba, from the nebula onward, is 
the outcome of exceptions, of minorities ; the whole 
world is the product of the millionth seed. It is that 
exception, that minority which is the determining fact 
of the universal process. 

The same is, in a sense, true of human, as of all 
evolution. It is the direct work of a few races, of a 
few individuals in those races. But here the peculiar 
character of human evolution and of its means comes 
into play. The reproductive bearer of its products is 
the whole human world, and, as a consequence, with 
every limitation which that reproductive function suffers, 
a corresponding fatal injury and disability is inflicted 
upon the process of development itself. 

The operation of that law is inexorable. It is no 
exaggeration to say that to neglect and defiance of it 
every failure whatsoever in the process of human de- 
velopment, every disability and every disaster, every mis- 
birth of history, and the bulk of human suffering, in- 
capacity and folly, are primarily and directly due. The 
law is manifested under two forms which, although aspects 
of the same necessity, differ conspicuously in their 
historical appearance, according as the sporadic and 
isolated evolution is that of (i) a social group, a state, 
a nation, or (2) of a section or class. 

The evolution of tribal communities is rigidly limited ; 
it can only take place up to a certain sharply defined 
level which constitutes an impassable boundary. Unless 


a complete change of social organization comes to be 
effected, unless nomadic or semi-nomadic tribes sub- 
sisting by the chase, by pastoral pursuits, and rudimentary 
forms of agriculture, outgrow those conditions, become 
transformed into settled communities and fused into 
larger groups, their development is strictly confined to 
a definite level of culture, presenting strikingly similar 
features and characterized by exactly similar achieve- 
ments wherever met with, and which is never over- 
stepped. If they continue in that state, if no circumstance 
take place to change it, if they remain isolated from 
contact with organized nations, they remain savages, 
doomed for ever to arrested growth in that condition, 
like the tribes which European expansion has met with all 
over the world, who at an early stage became cut off 
from those regions where civilization has developed. It 
has been shown by Mr. Sutherland l that to the numerical 
size of such tribal groups there corresponds a definite 
grade of primitive culture, that, other things being equal, 
the degree of development of a human group, its control 
over the conditions of life, is a function of its numbers. 

But the intrinsic development of a society, however 
civilized, apart from the interaction between it and other 
civilized societies, is no less strictly limited. No isolated 
human civilization has ever proceeded through its 
own unaided forces beyond a given limit. The time 
comes very speedily when that limit is reached, and 
complete arrest and stagnation take place. 

Of such secluded growth the civilization of China is, 
of course, the flagrant instance. Nor, certainly, is it 
one towards which we can afford to be merely con- 
temptuous. Its isolation, however, was never so com- 
plete as from our own exclusive western standpoint we are 
prone to conceive . Wrapped in dense obscurity as are its 
origins, they derived, we may well suppose, from more than 
one focus, even if we look no farther than the vast East- 
Asian expanses that were first in the third century B.C. 
brought under the sway of the Ts'in and Hang dynasties ; 
two such distinct cradles at least we discern on the upper 
reaches of the Hoang-ho and Yang-tse respectively. 
1 Origin and Growth of the Moral Instinct. 


It has been sought to connect those beginnings with 
those of Western Asia, of Babylon, for instance ; there 
is no solid evidence in support and none absolutely ex- 
clusive of such conjectures. But from the West, China 
was never in earliest times cut off. Schliemann found' 
in the Second City of Troy an axe of white jade that 
could only have come from China. Chinese wares, silk, 
iron, furs, figured in the marts of Babylon. From the 
Greek kingdom of Bactria, much, we know, passed into 
China, music, mathematical instruments, water -clocks, 
viticulture ; and much else doubtless of which we have no 
record. As far back as we can look a brisk trade is plied 
between the China coast and India, and through the 
latter with Arabia, Syria, Egypt. In the second century 
we hear in Chinese annals of Syrian traders, and of a 
certain King An-Tun who sent some kind of mission 
there in A.D. 166, whose name it is not difficult to 
re-translate 'Antoninus/ Intercourse with Rome fol- 
lowed at first chiefly the immemorial land -route through 
Parthia, which had been that of Persian commerce ; later 
the sea-route prevailed and Alexandria was the emporium. 
The development and productiveness of China appear 
closely to follow those periods of widest contact with 
Bactria, Parthia, India, and the Roman West ; and it 
reached its cultural apogee under the Sz-ma rulers of 
the third century ; from which time dates also, as a 
political doctrine, its purposive isolation and the cessation 
of its growth. There remains the broad fact that oun 
most conspicuous example of segregated development 
furnishes likewise our by -word for cultural arrest and' 
doddering stagnation. 

No society can continue in a state of progressive civi- 
lization in the midst of savage, uncivilized races, unless 
it can put an end to that situation by conquering them 
and imparting to them its own civilization. A mere 
island of culture in the midst of a sea of barbarism 
is a physical impossibility. It must either destroy its 
barbarian neighbours or absorb them and raise them to 
its own level, or else be overwhelmed and absorbed 
by them. 

But the power of a civilized community to overcome, 


or even successfully hold its own against barbarian 
neighbours necessitates and constitutes an intolerable 
drain upon its power of culture and development. War- 
like spirit, military virtues, discipline, the qualities which 
make for success and efficiency in the employment of 
force, are directly opposed to those which make for 
civilization and rational development. They are part 
of the organic struggle, of animal competition. Civi- 
lization requires the elevation of the race above the 
level of that struggle ; truly human evolution pre- 
supposes the setting aside of mere animal evolutionary 
strife. In proportion as a community is qualified for 
success in the one sphere, it is by so much disqualified 
in the other. Civilization, it is true, m&y furnish 
more effective weapons of warfare and more efficient 
organization ; but even the possession of those ad- 
vantages cannot free a community from the necessity of 
directing its developmental energies and resources into 
the channel of military, efficiency instead of that of 
rational growth. It is a current commonplace that 
civilization saps the ' manly ' qualities upon which 
military success and expansion depend. Of course it 
does ; it ' saps ' all the barbaric characters in human 
nature. The military spirit is no part of civilization, 
is not compatible, is in direct conflict with it. We 
constantly read in ancient history of communities 
succumbing "owing to growing corruption." But that 
' corruption ' means exactly the same thing as what 
we call civilization. We are a thousand times more 
'corrupt ' than Sibaris, or Rome at any stage. Ancient 
writers called civilization ' corruption ' because it did 
corrupt the martial qualities of a people. All civilization 
when menaced by barbarism is in that sense * corrupt / 
Civilizations fall before barbarism because they are too 
civilized. And, on the other hand, barbarism falls too 
in the end, because it gets more and more barbarous. 
Babylon fell because it was too civilized to fight ; Nineveh 
fell because it ate up all its industries and agriculture 
to feed its militarism. 

In that fact lies one cause of the ' decay and fall 
of empires.' The empires and kingdoms of 



ancient East were constantly seized and subjugated 
by more barbaric and warlike neighbours. But 
the invader was generally in a position to absorb the 
civilization of the conquered, a civilization which, as 
we shall see, had already come to a standstill from 
other causes. The whole Gra^co-Roman world was 
destroyed because, large as it seemed, it was but an 
island of civilization in the midst of a barbaric humanity. 
Europe was once within an ace of becoming a province 
of China, and is still thought by some to be menaced 
by a 4 yellow peril ' a phrase, by the way, coined by 
William Hohenzollern. That, however, is an illusion, 
because, in absorbing Western ideas, Eastern races in- 
variably adopt them in their higher and more advanced 
form, disdaining the effete ones whose influence survives 
in the lands of their origin ; and they are therefore too 
wise not to perceive very clearly the futility of mere 
war-made empires. The whole of Western civilization 
is at the present moment reeling under the effects of 
the most titanic struggle of forces in all history, because 
one community in its midst retained in its ruling classes 
the barbaric conceptions of the Middle Ages, and its 
robber -barons have held in their grip, and trained a 
people eminently capable of high culture, to the ideals 
of the age of Barbarossa. 

In proportion as a community is under the necessity 
of cultivating those ideals does it remain barbaric at 
heart. And not only is it doomed sooner or later in 
the course of human evolution to suffer humiliation 
and perish by the sword, but whatever civilization il 
may attain to is inevitably warped and falsified by the 
all-pervading lie of its patriotic glorification of sell 
and of might. 

In proportion as a civilization shuts itself off behind a 
wall of national pride and isolation is its growth stunted 
and condemned ; in proportion as it lives in free and 
constant intercourse with its neighbours and with all 
the world does it progress and thrive. 

Human evolution requires not only advance but ex- 
pansion. That civilization is almost invariably the 
highest which covers the widest area on the map 


Every great civilization, the Greek, the Roman, the Arab, 
the European, has developed simultaneously in value 
and extension. By virtue of the ineluctable necessities 
inherent in the nature, character and methods of human 
evolution, the ideal of an independent and segregated 
human group, of a society developing by itself and for 
itself, of a national civilization, of an empire, of a state, 
is not only factitious, an artificial * cold monster/ it 
is, whether we like it or no, an unrealizable impossibility. 
It is a contravention of the laws of human development, 
which repudiate, ignore, and foredoom it, and operate 
by way of humanity as a whole as the heir and trans- 
mitter of its evolutionary products, ignoring all other 
groups and units. 

The second form of sporadic evolution, that confined 
to a class within the social aggregate, is of even deeper 
import in the history of human development. It is a 
feature common in a greater or lesser degree to all 
societies which have hitherto existed, and constitutes 
to a large extent those ' germs of decay ' which give 
countenance to the fallacy that all societies necessarily 
run through a cycle of growth, maturity, and decadence . 
We shall have to consider the effects of that condition 
under various aspects in the following pages ; the pro- 
cesses to which it gives rise constitute the fundamental 
feature of human development in its most essential 
aspect, in what is known as the ethical aspect, and 
will form the subject of the third part of the present 
work . 

The inevitable result of that sporadic class -evolution 
is what I have already referred to as powe r -thought . 

Whatever the convention upon which the power of 
a ruling class is founded, be it religious, political, social, 
intellectual, racial, or economic, it exercises its inevit- 
able limiting influence upon the entire culture associated 
with it. But power -thought, by its falsification of and 
opposition to rational thought, not only fetters the 
general growth of the social organism, it no less fatally 
sterilizes the development of the very class whose power 


it is its object to promote. No culture which is th 
product and privilege of a class can continue in tha 
form. The ideal of an exalted ruling class achievinj 
human progress by means of, and at the expense o 
an excluded slave class, that ideal so brilliantly revive< 
in our own day by Nietzsche, is an impossibility, ; 
conception which runs counter to the ineludible law 
which govern human evolution. If a master clas 
achieves complete control over a slave class, it mus 
end in stagnation, because the conditions of that contro 
require an ever-increasing subservience of the moment: 
of progress to their maintenance ; the development i: 
from the first deflected and distorted by the necessity 
of maintaining existing conditions ; the entire fabric o 
the human world is shaped and coloured, not by rationa 
thought, not by pure desire for truth and for tnu 
progress, but by the artificial interests, the inviolable 
foundations of the privileges of the ruling class. Anc 
the domination of those motives, like a parasite on 2 
noble tree, entirely stifles and supplants the progressive 
impulse. The entire culture of the ruling class, what- 
ever force and noble qualities it may once have 
possessed, swiftly degenerates into a dead world of mere 
formulas and shams ; all sincerity, all sense of truth and 
justice, every element of vitality departs from it. li 
it continues to exist, if no force comes to sweep it 
away entirely from the world, it lives only a mummified 
life. If, on the other hand, the control, the subjection 
of the servile class is not complete, if that class is not 
rigorously excluded from the mental -world of the master 
class, the progressive impulse sets to work in the sub- 
jected class also. Its operation acts against the existing 
order of things. The falsification of the cultural 
elements of the threatened master class becomes even 
more pronounced ; the intensity of the bias produced 
by its interests is proportionate to the forces which 
menace them. It is determined to see things as they 
are not, and consequently becomes totally unadapted 
to things as they are. And the conflict which is set up 
can only end in the subversion of the existing order. 
Those are the ' seeds of decay * which many suppose 


to reside in every culture. They are presen; v^e/ever 
that culture and its advantages are not diffused through 
the entire social body, but are correlated to the interests 
of a group of individuals to whose development the 
lives of the majority are rendered subservient. That 
injury to one portion of the social body reacts upon 
the whole ; the collective organism cannot be healthy 
when one part seeks to thrive to the detriment of another . 
Both suffer equally ; the dominance of the one is bought 
at the expense of its own deterioration. Such an 
organism violates the conditions of organic existence, 
and the nemesis is that it must also violate the conditions 
of human adaptation and development. It cannot de- 
velop by the force of rational thought, but strives to 
live by stifling the operation of that force. It is in the 
nature of things foredoomed. 

That ' honesty is the best policy ' is an adage* 
repeated with uncertain conviction. That truth is the 
best policy is a law of human development, the necessary 
consequence of man's situation in the world. Everything 
which makes for that truth will promote his successful 
adaptation, everything which tends to vitiate his judg- 
ment and deflect his mind from its function will inevit- 
ably result in inadaptation to the facts amongst which 
he lives, and check his power of evolution . Throughout 
the entire course of 'human culture, the vitality, the 
power, the energy, the worth, the success of a civiliza- 
tion, mean its sincerity, its honesty of thought ; senility, 
decay, corruption, the doomed and downward path, 
mean mendacity and dishonesty. 





WHEN nomadic humanity in search for pastures came 
upon the alluvial plains of the great Asiatic water- 
courses, and discovered that, with but little labour, 
bounteous nature yielded abundant winter food for cattle 
and, it soon occurred, for men also it ceased to 
wander, became agricultural and settled into permanent 
abodes. From the slime of the Jaxartes, the Ganges, 
the Yang-tse, the Euphrates, and the Nile, civilization 
was born. Nature afforded leisure, relieved man from 
the hand-to-mouth struggle for food ; leisure gave 
opportunity for thought and device. 

But the same conditions which gave permanent abode 
and secure sustenance, furnished likewise the occasion 
of new struggles. In a community that lives on fish 
or game no decided advantage can accrue to any indi- 
vidual or group from domination over the rest ; under 
purely pastoral conditions the cattle is the common 
property of the tribe, and, while one tribe may steal 
another's herds, there is neither inducement nor facility 
for individual appropriation from the common flock. 
But where the land itself, permanently occupied, is the 
source of sustenance and wealth, where the needful 
work can be performed as well by the labourer working 
for another as for himself, where leisure renders surplus 
production possible, the advantages to be derived from 
power wielded over man, and from individual possession, 
are obvious and substantial. The claim to ownership 
of the soil, if it can be made good, places the owner 
in possession of men also and their labour. 



The influence of the medicine -man, the magician, the 
priest, the relatives and representatives of the god, on 
whose incantations and rituals, more even than on human 
care, the fertility of the soil is believed to depend- 
that influence assumes with the agricultural people 
enormous proportions. And it is thus not through any 
racial ' genius for religion ' that the Asiatic and 
Nilotic lands of rivers have ever been the great b re wing - 
vats of religious fermentation ; and that the map of 
the alluvial plains of Asia and North Africa is also that 
of the cradle of every religion, save one,^that has counted 
in the world. Is man naturally and incurably pre- 
disposed to put his trust in mummeries and magic rites 
to make corn and cabbages grow, rather than in hoeing, 
and ploughing, and sowing, as our anthropologists labour 
to impress on us? It appears somewhat incredible. 
But any disposition towards such a notion would, we 
may be sure, not be unduly discouraged by the repre- 
sentatives of the corn -god ; and they would with greater 
authority and nimbler fancy than the simple boor, pre- 
scribe and develop rituals and mythologies. 

The fact that has most impressed the diggers and 
decipherers of that early civilization, the form of which 
has but lately been emerging from the mounds of 
Mesopotamia, is the magnitude and all-pervasiveness of 
its piety. Accustomed as we are to the unity of religion 
and of life in all primitive cultures, early Babylon 
transcends all examples. It cannot for a moment escape 
from the orbit of religious thought. You cannot take 
a step in that magic circle, move a shovelful of earth, 
make a brick, eat a mouthful, take a breath, give a 
sneeze, without being brought into direct contact with 
the supernatural. That is the f atmosphere in which 
the oriental mind has been formed. 

The fertile alluvial soil is a gift of the god ; ' the 
earth is the Lord's," the Lord is the landlord ; and rent 
accordingly, first-fruits and tithes, must be paid to him. 
Payment of rent is one of the most essential and efficient 
propitiatory rituals. The priest, the family of the god, 
pay rent to themselves. Hence one inevitable genesis 
of landed ownership. 


The representative of the god was not backward in 
using his advantage : he bled the people white. Here is, 
for instance, a little memorandum which we happen to 
have picked up of fees due to a Sumerian priest for 
reading the burial service over one of his flock and con- 
signing him to mother-earth " Seven urns of wine, four 
hundred and twenty loaves of bread, one hundred and 
twenty measures of corn, a garment, a kid, a bed, and 
a seat." 

Between agricultural communities scattered along the 
banks of the great rivers disputes inevitably arise, chiefly 
in regard to grazing grounds, which remain communal, 
and, as more land is brought under tillage, extend further 
and further afield. Provision must be made for protec- 
tion and refuge ; that afforded by the sanctuary of the 
god is wisely supplemented by an enclosure of strong 
walls. The home of the community becomes a walled 

Of such kind are the settlements we meet with every- 
where at the dawn of civilization in eastern lands, dotted 
over the plains of Mesopotamia, for instance. In the 
course of tribal warfare adjoining city-states tend to 
fuse under the sway of the strongest, paying tribute to 
the dominant chief, the steward of the god, the patesi, 
as he is called ; and little kingdoms arise with varying 
fortunes around Kish and Lagash, Eridu and Ur of 
the Chaldees. Ultimately the inevitable fate of the cities 
of the plain, undelimitated by natural frontiers, is to 
form mighty empires stretching from the rising to the 
going down of the sun, witnessing to the glory of a 
priest -king, the offspring of the high gods. Thus 
did Eannatum of Lagash and Sargon of Agade " pour 
forth their glory over the world," and Sumu-abu and 
Khammurabi weld Sumer and Akkad into the first 
Babylonian Empire. So in Egypt the Horus-Lords of 
Abydos absorb adjoining tribes and extend their king- 
dom to the Fayum, till Narmer, subduing the Delta 
people, whose culture owing to proximity of Babylonian 
influences is more advanced, unites the Nile Valley under 
his sway. The cupidity of warlike hill and desert tribes 
is also necessarily excited by riparian prosperity ; high- 


landers from Elam, periodic waves of wild Beddwin from 
the desert, Akkadian, Canaanite, Aramaean Semitic 
swarms, Kassite horsemen, and the terrible Hittite from 
Cappadocia, come sweeping down over the promised land, 
the mother of civilization. But all those inroads have 
little other effect than to extend and spread her beneficent 
influence. The conditions remain unchanged. In vain 
the gods of Babylon are carried away to the hills, their 
power remains with the rivers and their priests. Semite 
may supplant Sumerian, but the priest and his civiliza- 
tion remains and absorbs the wild conqueror. When the 
warrior attempts to throw off the spell, to take power 
into his own strong hand, when the Shalmanesers and 
Asshurnasirpals, and Sennacheribs, the lords of Calah 
and Nineveh try, like mediaeval emperors, to shake off 
the dominance of the arrogant priests of Asshur and 
Babylon, to oppose their privileges, to question their 
immemorial claim to exemption from taxation, to lay 
hand on the tenfple lands, they find themselves in the 
end worsted ; till the Assyrian empire, excommunicated 
and abandoned by all, goes down before the Mede amid 
the curse of the nations. And When, in another age, 
the Greek Xenophcxn marches astonished through the 
ruins of Nineveh, his guides are unable to tell him? 
the name which they once bore. 

With territorial extension goes a corresponding 
increase in the character of despotic power. The 
original theocratic rule of the patesi, the vicar of god, 
great as it was, holding the awed and helpless multitude 
as its mercy, becomes even more superhuman as it 
stretches over vast regions. The kings of Babylon 
and those of Memphis gathered millions of men from 
every part of their dominions to build a temple-palace 
or a pyramid. t 

A somewhat unpleasant admission has to be made. 
That inevitable sequence of events, that absolutism of 
the great empires of the morning- land's, that wholesale 
subjugation of human herds, that unresisted tyranny 
which was founded in the very heart of the slave, 
in mental prostration before divine power, that fearful, 
willing, loyal abjection, that kismet of the river-lands, 


that terrible secret of the East was the foundation, 
the indispensable foundation of civilization. Without 
it Greece, Europe would have been impossible. I call 
it an " unpleasant admission " because it would be fine 
to be able to say that human civilization is the child 
of freedom, that it is incompatible with tyranny 
and slavery. As a matter of fact men never bethought 
themselves of building decent homes for themselves until 
they had seen gorgeous palaces and temples built with 
the tears and blood of thousands; they never bethought 
themselves of living in reasonable comfort until they 
had witnessed the opulence and luxurious orgies of 
satraps and kings; they never bethought themselves 
of controlling the forces of nature till herds of human 
chattels under the kurbash of their slave-drivers had 
dug canals and artificial lakes, embanked rivers, and 
quarried mountains ; they never knew scientific curiosity, 
the powers of the mind, the greatness and might of 
knowledge, the glories of intellect before leisured 
parasite-priests created culture. Totally emancipated 
for the first time from the material organic struggle, 
commanding the resources of the land, commanding 
inexhaustible supplies of forced labour ready at hand 
to carry out their will, the priests of Sumer and Babylon 
and Egypt devised, contemplated, thought, discovered; 
they brought forth architectural and pictorial arts, crafts, 
industries, taught men to chisel stone, hammer and 
inlay metals, glaze pottery and tiles, blow glass, weave 
rich fabrics and impart to them gorgeous dyes; they 
laid the foundations of mathematical and mechanical 
knowledge, measured the land, divided the year, mapped 
out the heavens, traced the course of the sun and 
planets through the zodiacal belt ; they invented writing, 
committed vast stores of knowledge and experience to 
innumerable clay tablets and papyrus rolls, formulated 
laws, established the foundations of all culture and 

Ever glorious and venerable to every lover of 
man must be those first outbursts of civilization and 
culture. But behold a stranger thing than even their 
swift emergence out of savagery. From their very 


infancy they are smitten with a hidden malady. They 
shoot up with astonishing rapidity in a dim distant age, 
a revelation full of light and promise; and forthwith 
a spell is cast upon them, their growth is arrested, 
their creative impulses numbed, a palsy creeps over them, 
they stand still, petrified. They do not die; they live 
on and on, century after century, from one millen- 
nium to another, a charmed, weird, sepulchral life, 
in a trance, unchanging, as if under some awful 
curse . 

In Babylonia all native culture has produced its best, 
its all save for what the fastuous power of an Asshur- 
banipal can impart to it of opulence before the early 
days of the first Babylonian em'pire of Khammurabi. 
" For the finest period of Babylonian art we must 
go back to a time some centuries before the founding 
of the Babylonian monarchy." l Nothing essential is 
added. Babylonian science, which has supplied the 
germ of all science to the world, was exactly as far 
advanced in the nebulous dawn days of the Sumerian 
city-states as nearly four thousand years later when 
Greeks came to gather its crumbs. As the legend 
which Berossus transmits to us expresses it, " Oamres," 
the fish-god that came out of the Arabian sea, 
" taught people all the things that make up civili- 
zation, and nothing new was invented afoer that 
any more." 

In the isolation of Egypt the spectacle is no less strik- 
ing. Culture is actually more advanced under the pyra- 
mid-builders of the IVth dynasty than at any time during 
the three-and-a-half millenniums during which twenty - 
five dynasties succeeded them. Not even the brief 
freedom of development under the heretic pharaoh 
Akhenaten, or the cultural contacts which under the 
Xllth dynasty produced Beni- Hassan and the jewellery 
and scarabs of the period, can recapture the, first 
fine rapture of the art of the Old Etnpire. The 
civilization of the Theban Ernpire at its height, 
though immeasurably more wealthy and commanding 
vastly greater resources, falls conspicuously below that 
1 L. W. King, Sumer and Akkad, p. 83. 


of the Memphitic Empire, two thousand years older- 
Compare, for instance, the statue of Princess Nefert or 
the Sheikh al-Balad with, say, the Ramses statues of 
Luxor. Compare the king's chamber of the Great 
Pyramid, the huge cementless ashlars between the joints 
of which it is impossible to introduce the blade of a 
penknife, masonry, as Flinders Petrie says, " only 
comparable to watchmakers' work," with the jerry- 
building of Karnak and its patchwork pillars held 
together by stucco., If the artists of Thebes cannot 
match the realism of those of Memphis, and still draw 
their figures in that curious way, trunk and eyes front 
view, limbs and head in profile, it is not that they know 
no better and are clumsy the artist who decorated 
Seti's temple at Abydos and his tomb at Thebes, is, 
one can see, a fine draughtsman but the convention is 
too sacred to be broken. 

Our engineering and mechanical skill is the lineal 
successor of that of Egypt ; and yet to this day the 
fellah and Kurdish peasant plough with the same 
woo/den share as their forefathers at the dawn of time; 
the Nile air reverberates to the sounds of creaking 
shadoofs and sakyahs as it did five thousand years ago, 
and the snap-shot of the modern tourist reproduces 
the same scene as the mastabas of Sakkara; the 
peasants of the Tigris Valley sail down-stream in those 
funny round leather tubs which carry two men and a 
donkey, and return home with the leather boat packed 
on the donkey's back, just as Herodotos saw them, and 
as they had done long before the official ' creation of 
the world.' 

The ' unchanging East,' the ' oriental mind ' ! It is 
no racial disease. Sumerian, Semite, Egyptian, Iranian, 
Indian Aryan, Mongol, Tartar, all have in like manner 
succumbed to it. It is the doom attaching to all the 
civilizations which have "been bred from the silt of the 
Asiatic streams, the fatal gift of the corn and river 
gods. Culture and civilization is in all of them the 
outcome of the ascendancy which the spontaneous, 
seemingly miraculous bounty of nature gave to the 
sacerdotal dispensers and controllers of those gifts, and 
to the absolute intellectual domination of the conse- 


quent systems of thought. The East has been 
' unchanging ' for the simple reason that everything 
that exists in it is sacred, and to touch it is, therefore, 
sacrilege . 

Chaldasan civilization is the oldest that we know. 
It is not only the type of the development of all 
eastern phases of culture, but the focus whence that 
type has imposed itself on the oriental world. The 
culture of the Sumerian city-states became that of 
Babylon and Asshur. In what measure it influenced 
that of Egypt is still a discussed point. The military 
empire of Assyria diffused it far and wide among the 
motley populations of Syria and Asia Minor, and through 
Philistine and; Phoenician to Cypirus and Crete, through 
Babylonian traders to the uplands of Cappadocia and 
to Iran. And, when Cyrus, king 4 of Anshan, created the 
Persian Empire, the successor of Nineveh, the culture 
of that first World-empire, which extended from the 
confines of China and India to Greece, and was 
the great political fact of the ancient world, Was the 
civilization of Babylon writ large. The Persian satrapies 
of India which supplied in gold-dust one -third of the 
revenue of the treasury of Ecbatana, and whose archers 
fought at Plataea, planted the Babylonian civilization 
of Persia in the Magadhan kingdom of the Upper 
Ganges ; and when, after Alexander's raid, Chandra- 
gupta overthrew the Nandas, the first great Indian 
Empire of Maurya, which rose to its height under King 
Asoka, was modelled' upon that of Persia, and its capital 
Pataliputra (the modern Patna) was a copy of 

Among the offthrows of Chaldaean culture was; the 
great Jew Bible, whose poetry and myths, captives 
repatriated by Cyrus brought with them from Babylon 
together with the deep Chaldsean religious fervour. To 
the elevating influence of Persian conceptions were, 
we like to believe, partly due those high developments 
which the ancient thought of the venerable mother- 
culture of the land of Shinar underwent at the hands 
of the tribesmen of Beni-Israel. Not to any such 
causes as Professor Falta de Gracia would invoke, who 


so absurdly conceives that, " While among the gentle 
Chaldaeans each tribal god was in the habit of paying 
courtesies to the gods of neighbouring tribes, inviting 
them to the inauguration of any new temple, providing 
them with side -chapels, the Israelitish Bedawin were, 
after the collapse of the trumpery little kingdom they 
had set up, so maddened with impotent rage and 
bruised pride, that their nebi were moved to declare 
that no other god but Yaveh should be worshipped; 
and, in order to ensure against his being carried off 
by indignant neighbours, they abolished his seven-horned 
images and fetish stones, and decreed the suppression 
of all pictorial arts. Thus, amid the lyric hate of the 
prophet -bards of Judah, soaring to quite sublime heights 
of vituperation, was Intolerance ushered into this stricken 
world." The learned Professor has here, we think, 
allowed himself to be carried off his feet to quite 
uncalled-for 'sublime heights.' 

Early Babylon fixed for ever the mould of the 
eastern mind, of the Eastern World. And that mould 
was that of theocracy, the absolute intellectual 
supremacy of the priest, the representative of the 
god, the magician, the mystic ; the identification 
of all forms of rule and power with that original 

Theocracy in the East has not been intellectually 
tyrannical or coercive. We do not find there the 
obscurantism, the holding down of thought, the perpetual 
warfare against intellectual revolt, which is such a 
familiar feature of the European world, with Greece and 
Rome at its back. And that for a simple reason : 
there has been no intellectual revolt. The true 
intellectual impulse never arose at all. The age-long 
habit of religious power-thought has sunk too deep 
in the constitution. The only changes, the only mental 
contests known to the East are religious changes; 
religious thought can only be supplanted there by 
religious thought. Whereas in Greece intellectual 
awakening and criticism of existing religious ideas took 
the form of ' philosophies,' of thought purely secular 
and intellectual; in the East, on the contrary, criticism 



of existing religious thought, however intellectual in 
its inception, has invariably taken the form of ' new. 
religions.' Thus, criticism of primitive Magian religion 
by Zarathustra became Zoroastrianism, criticism of 
Brahmism by Gautama and by Mahavira became 
Buddhism and Jainism; the purely secular thoughts 
of Lao-Tsu became Taoism ; and even the explicitly 
unmetaphysical moralizing of Kong-fu-tse became 
Confucianism . 

Of purely secular, clear-cut, sharply focussed thought, 
the oriental mind is incapable. Its very languages are 
unfitted for the expression of precision and accuracy 
of thought; they have no terms for mental facts, they 
can only be expressed by material images. To the 
oriental, Greek poetry is unintelligibly friglid because 
the motions and states of the mind are expressed by 
words, not by a string of metaphors; they do not know 
the use of inversion, they mark emphasis by repeating 
a thing three times over; they have no syntax, no 
means of expressing the varying! relations and connec- 
tions between thoughts ; propositions are strung together 
like beads, and the only conjunction is ' and . . . and 
. . . and ' reiterated to infinity. The human mind 
had to break through the gyves of such a mental 
conformation ere it could apply rational thought to 
the higher problems of its situation and destiny. And 
that mental constitution, that incapacity which is the 
central fact of eastern culture, is the inevitable product 
of the mode of birth of that culture. It is the fruit 
of the lordly leisure and boundless domination of a 
small class holding multitudes in mental submission by 
virtue of the religious sanction of their power. Raised 
above all material struggles, the priestly ruling class 
built itself an intellectual mansion exalted above the 
herd. But their minds were satisfied as soon as they 
were housed; they consecrated their home, lay down 
and went to sleep. The mental world which they 
created was itself inexorably dominated by their 
position. Their power, their wealth, their leisure, 
their opportunity of intellectual achievement, their 
very life and being, depended upon the sanctity 


attaching to that mental world, to established conven- 
tion and tradition, upon the mystic prestige of its divine 
and consecrated character. They were neither wicked 
not unintelligent men, those genial priests. On the 
contrary they were quite the most admirable and 
charming men of their day. They were filled with a 
profound sense of the sacredness and worth of their 
mission; they were conscious of being, what in fact 
they were, the civilizers and teachers of mankind. It 
was with a genuine zest and love, and, as would be said 
nowadays, in a reverent spirit, that they followed their 
intellectual pursuits, studied the heavens from the top 
of their ziggurat* or temple -towers, sought to assist the 
practical operations of agriculture, of land reclamation, 
of irrigation. And what is more, they were uplifted by 
a strong feeling; of responsibility, of moral duty. They 
desired the welfare of the people. It is quite evident 
from the elaborate codes of laws they devised, that 
they were zealously anxious that righteousness should 
prevail. No Christian priest, no missionary to-day is 
filled with a more exalted ideal of his functions, with 
a loftier moral endeavour, than were the priests, the 
patesi of Babylonia. 

Yet all those endeavours and aspirations were fatally, 
involuntarily perverted and paralysed. The whole 
momentum of thought, the whole interests of the thinker 
were enlisted in the cause of a tradition; and all the 
knowledge and wisdom they acquired was assimilated 
with, and pressed in the service of that convention. 
Their most intimate thought was hemmed and deformed 
under the pressure of those conditions : was crumpled and 
distorted and withered. Their science was magic, their 
astronomy, astrology. Their art was stifled by tradi- 
tionalism. All , the products of their mind were 
inextricably entangled in fantastic oriental metaphor, 
in uncouth, misshapen dreams, swayed in grotesque 
mythological chimeras. Their moral aspirations resulted 
in a world which presented but one relation, that of 
lord and slave ; their superhuman world reflected the 
same relation. We look in vain in all their achieve- 
ments for a ray of clear thought that can strike a 


responsive note in us, and make us forget for a moment 
the interval of time, and the difference between East 
and West. And that desiccated, aborted world has 
lived on its mummified life through the ages, in senile 
infancy, for ever incapable of growth. 



A TIME came when the quaint, archaic fruits of oriental 
culture, disseminated and transplanted among many 
various populations, reached certain very active and in- 
telligent tribes of pirates. These were not organized 
into large empires of slaves and theocratic despots, bait 
in small clans scattered over islands and sinuous cliff- 
shores ; and every individual had to bear to a smaller 
or larger extent a share of the cares, fortunes, and 
perils of the tribe. Hence they were not under any 
necessity of preserving the sanctity of traditional ways. 
Thus arose Greek thought, thus was laid the foundation 
of the modern world. 

In the midst of that day-dreaming, cataleptic Orient, 
at once infantile and senile, which must needs remain 
alien and exotic to the western mind, Greece, like her 
goddess Athene, appears to rise panoplied and full grown, 
and almost without a transition we find ourselves trans- 
ported, as if by the stroke of her magic spear, into a 
modern atmosphere. Between an age of dim fable and 
i the height of Athenian intellectual splendour scarcely 
two hundred years have elapsed ; ' though in reality the 
development of Hellas has been silently proceeding for 
some eight centuries. 

In passing from Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, 
Judtea, into Greece, we step into a world which is actually 
closer to us than are the ten centuries intervening between 
the passing of Hellenism and the rebirth of Europe, 
a world which is western and modern, in which we 
move among the topics, problems, tendencies discussions, 
criticisms, which occupy our own thought. It is not 
merely because our intellectual heritage is Grecian that 



we feel at home there, it is not merely that the structure 
of our ideas, of our conceptions, our modes of expression, 
the forms of our literature, are the progeny of Greek 
thought ; it is because Greece owed its own life, as 
we ours, to the liberation of the human mind from 
the gyves and shackles which weighed it down in the 
theocratic East. Greece made the European world. It 
is inaccurate to say that she saved it from the encroaching 
East. There was no European world. There was only 
one form of civilization, that of the Orient, and Greece 
was not separated by any geographical convention from 
the Orient, but was as much part of it as is Constanti- 
nople. Greece did not save Europe, she created it. 
Before Greece there was no Europe ; Greece brought it 
into being by breaking the spell, exorcizing the fatal 
charm which had fallen upon all human evolution. 

When we turn our attention to Greek history we are 
not merely curiously inquiring into the annals of certain 
very small city-states in the Levant. That history con- 
stitutes by far the most momentous grand-climacteric 
in the evolution of humanity. ' The history of Greece 
is not a chapter in historical annals, it is a turning- 
point in evolution. Speaking purely as a scientific 
anthropologist Dr. Marett says, ' To break through 
custom by the sheer force of reflection, and to make 
rational progress possible, was the intellectual feat 
of one people, the ancient Greeks ; and it is at least 
highly doubtful if, without their leadership, a progressive 
civilization would have existed to-day." ' 

The phenomenon of Greece, the ' miracle of Greece ' 
as it is often called, has appeared so marvellous that it 
is one of the standing puzzles of criticism to account 
for it. In the two or three centuries of Greek activity 
the course of human evolution seems rather to have 
taken a sudden leap than followed the slow path of 
a process of growth. Within that short space of time 
the intellectual power of Greece has blazed the tracks 
which all human thought and creation has subsequently 
followed in literature, in art, in philosophy, in criticism, 
logic, politics ; so that every path which the human 
* Anthropology, p. 185. 


mind has trod leads us, traced backwards, to Greek 

We have in general been satisfied to fall back on 
the old Gordian knot method of saying that the Greeks 
were endowed with a wonderfully gifted disposition. Pro- 
fessor Bury says that " we have to take that character 
for granted." And it is now the fashion to hint at a 
profound explanation by laying stress upon the mystic 
words 'Aryan' and 'northern races.* That the 
* character ' of the Greeks, or to speak more accurately, 
the conditions of their development in those ages which 
preceded their emergence into the light of history, con- 
tributed to their subsequent evolution, may readily be 
granted. But that evolution was a definite effect of the 
circumstances in which it took place. 

When the Greek tribes appeared in the ^Egean region 
their way had already been made straight for the utili- 
zation and transformation of eastern culture. Although 
there was no European civilization, Europe was not a 
world of sheer howling savagery. It had attained, as 
we realize more and more with the progress of archeo- 
logical research, as high a state of material culture as 
it is possible for scattered tribes and small primitive 
communities to attain. In France, in Spain, in Italy 
skilful bronze-smiths and potters had long been present. 
The great river trade-routes which were to last down 
till modern times were already opened up ; the copper, 
manufactured bronze, earthenware, of Mediterranean lands 
were being exchanged for British tin and Baltic amber. 
In the yEgean itself had arisen the most highly developed 
of those cultures. Born of seafaring enterprise, of the 
contacts of the strong Cretan despot's far-flung fleets 
with every Mediterranean shore, that brilliant material 
culture whose labyrinthine palaces, with their monumental 
thro ne- rooms, and staircases, and bull- rings, their stuccos, 
and cameos, and frescoes, whose flounce -kir ted ladies, and 
feathered page-boys, astonish us, served the momentous 
purpose of a half-way house for the exsurgent destinies 
of the Greek tribes, fitting them for the assimilation of 
more important elements. For in the first wonder of dis- 
covery, the importance of that Minoan culture's influence 


may easily be exaggerated. It was a courtly culture 
which exploited the resources of eastern civilization 
and of Mediterranean local Industries for the pleasure 
and gratification of powerful autocrats ; and, while it 
transmitted to Greece the all- important factor of sea- 
power, many material and artistic suggestions, and 
perhaps something of its pleasure-loving, hedonistic reck- 
lessness and insouciance, it contained, like the similar 
and similarly formed Tyrrhenian culture, whose last 
remnants died out with Etruscan power, no great intrinsic 
element of new progress, nor aught of what makes up 
the distinctive qualities of Greece. Greece does not 
hold the place it does in the history of humanity by 
virtue of its pottery or of the type of its decorative 
designs. Minoan civilization could not transmit what 
it did not possess. 

The most important dowry of Minoan civilization to 
Greece was its ships. Drawn over a sea-way made easy 
by countless stepping-stones, and which brought them 
at the end of every radius of their course in touch with 
an existing civilization, the Greek became a sea-rover, 
and, like his national hero, Odysseus, "many men's cities 
he saw and learned their mind." He mixed and com- 
peted with the merchants of Tyre and Sidon ; he met 
Babylonian caravans in the bazaars of Lydia and Synope ; 
he went as merchant or mercenary to Syria and to 
Egypt, fought in the armies of Nebuchadnezzar and 
sacked Jerusalem, in the armies Tjf the Pharaohs and 
scratched his name on the colossi of Abu-Simbel ; met 
Phrygian, Lydian and Assyrian. And when Persian 
power gathered up all the old civilizations of the Orient, 
the Greek was in daily, close, and by no means always 
unfriendly relation with the great cosmopolitan empire. 
He absorbed every culture of the Eastern world. The 
first book of history published in Greece was not a 
history of Greece, but of all the * barbarians ' whom 
the Greek found so very interesting ; and, in a later 
age, Plutarch wrote a pamphlet to vent his patriotic 
indignation against Herodotos, who was a shameless 
* pro -barbarian ' to an extent quite inconsistent with 
respectable patriotism. 


But all those varied culture-contacts would have availed 
little they were little more than Phoenician and Minoan 
had enjoyed had they not worked upon a material of 
new quality. The Greeks were, as none of those people 
had been, almost completely protected from the influence 
of tradition and from every form of power-thought. 
Therein lies the differentiating character of the reaction. 
No sacredness attached in their eyes to the culture which 
they took over from Cretan and Mycenean. And those 
with which they came into relation through their inter- 
course with Persian, Phoenician, Egyptian, Babylonian, 
were approached with curiosity, interest, acquisitiveness, 
but with no superstitious reverence. 

When the Greeks came under those influences they 
were in that primitive tribal phase of society which, 
in culture and organization, is very much the same 
wherever it is met wiih, whether among Germanic tribes, 
or American Indians, or Central African, or Polynesian 
tribal communities. It has, of course, nothing to do 
with race, but is a culture phase necessarily common to 
all races before the establishment of large fixed com- 
munities and agriculture. The older writers like 
Robertson and Guizot were deeply struck with the re- 
semblance between the social condition and character 
of the ancient Germans and those of the Red Indians, 
the only surviving tribal communities then at all well 
known ; and someone even wrote a book to prove that 
the Redskins were Germans. Only the blinding tradition 
of elegant pseudo-classicism has prevented the same like- 
ness from being perceived sooner 'in the Homeric Greek, 
and the pictures of the Iliad from being at once recognized 
as obviously taken from Fenimore Cooper's novels. 

Their clans, genoi, phrateries, were not, as Grote and 
Maine have imagined, groups of families, but family 
groups, in a state of transition from matriarchal kin- 
ship, group-marriage, exogamy, and tribal 'communism, 
to the patriarchal state. Large constituted interests, 
class privilege and government, traditions of absolutism, 
were then wholly unknown to them. Their ' basileis ' 
were never, either then or later, ' kings ' at all in the 
sense which the title has acquired, but war-chiefs, subject 


to the natural authority of the whole tribe convened 
in councils, in which the people were influenced in their 
decisions not by the power or prestige of authority, 
but by the tongue of their orators or demagogues ; and 
where they signified their approval or dissent by murmurs 
or shouts and the rattling of their spears on their shields. 
All our ' histories of Greece ' are rendered thoroughly 
unintelligible by the notion that Greece began with 
' monarchies.' At most the measure of authority 
acquired by their chiefs, was that exercised by the leader 
oif a band of pirates who holds his power at the discretion 
of his men. In Homer the word * basileus ' does not mean 
* king/ but * prince ' ; there are families of basileis in 
every tribe. That power tended continuously to dwindle ; 
the basileus became the archon, at first elected for life, 
then decennially, finally annually. And it is strikingly 
characteristic that, while in the riparian civilizations of 
the East the priestly function developed into the para- 
mount autocracy of kingly despotism, among the Greek 
tribes the kingly war-leader sank into the insignificant 
office of the priest, the second archon, as in Rome he 
became the rex sacrificulus. 

The spirit of tribal democracy was never supplanted 
by the spirit of monarchy, by courtly abasements, 
reverential awe, divine right, * loyalty.' The Greeks did 
not invent democracy, as our school histories supposed ; 
they never had occasion to abandon their original con- 
dition of tribal democracy. What they did was to en- 
deavour to maintain that original democratic state under 
civilized conditions, in spite of all the factors which, 
amid wealth and culture, make for class privileges and 

There were plenty of attempts to establish privilege 
and oppression in Greece : Eupatrid claims, ' tyrannoi.' 
The earlier and much of the later history of Greek 
cities is entirely taken up with struggles against desperate 
efforts of various powers to establish themselves, with 
the checkmating of attempts at usurpation. But those 
TVvery struggles testify to the untamed force of the primitive 
*^equalitarian spirit. The constitution of Solon was necessi- 
tated by the most terrible condition of plutocratic 


ascendancy. The Athenian merchants, enriched by the 
eastern trade, held the whole agricultural land and the 
farmers themselves in the grip of their mortgages. But 
the force of old-established democracy was too strong : 
all debts had to be cancelled. (Imagine Capital and 
Labour to-day agreeing to submit to the decision of a 
Professor Solon, and capitalists tamely submitting to 
expropriation !) The conditions under which the Greek 
people had developed did not permit of any attempt at 
usurpation achieving lasting success : usurpation had no 
power of tradition at its back ; it was not ' divine ' 
and sacred, it never had the means of getting itself 
sanctified and venerated : it had to play its game under 
its own undisguised banner. The Greek tribesmen had 
never occasion to prostrate themselves before a vice- 
gerent of the corn -god. The * tyrannoi ' were no more 
tyrants than the basileis and archons were kings ; they 
usurped the administrative and executive power by popular 
support and armed force, but none dared or had the power 
to alter the actual constitution, to claim to be ' legiti- 
mate ' rulers. Peisistratos enforced the laws of Solon, and 
even made them more liberal ; the only means of power 
which those usurpers had, was to please the people. In 
passing from barbaric communism to civilization, the 
Greeks never lost the spirit of their equalitarian condition. 
And the height of the intellectual growth of Athens 
coincides with a form of absolute democracy, which is, 
and will probably remain without parallel. The * demo- 
cratic jealousy * with which the Kleisthenean constitution 
is almost fanatically obsessed, was bent upon preinsurance 
against the remotest opportunity of individual or class 
predominance . 

It is true that this superlative democracy rested on 
slavery, that when Attic imperialism was at its height 
a hundred thousand citizens were surrounded by three 
hundred and sixty-five thousand slaves. But at 
a time when slavery was a universally recognized 
institution the condition of Attic slaves was so mild, 
except in the silver mines (the lot of miners is bad '. 
under all circumstances), that they never once revolted. ' 
The agricultural slave was rather a farmer than a slave, 



and having paid a certain fixed proportion of produce 
to the landlord, could do what he liked with the rest ; 
the industrial slave assisted his master, who worked as 
hard as himself ; and Demosthenes could claim that slaves 
in Attica enjoyed greater freedom than citizens in many 
another land. Hence slavery in Athens never affected 
her intellectual development through any anxiety about 
the maintenance of power. That it did not affect it 
by producing idleness is attested by the fact that in the 
time of Perikles the number of citizens who could not 
afford to lose a day's work to serve on the juries was 
so great, that he introduced the payment of jurymen. 
As a matter of fact most of the crafts and industries of 
Athens were carried on by free labour, not by slaves, the 
former being cheaper and better. No slave labour was 
employed in the building of the temples of the Acropolis. 
Slavery did exercise a profoundly pernicious effect upon 
Greek culture, and ultimately contributed to its down- 
fall. But neither in Greece nor in Rome did it 
ever seriously affect the complexion of social and 
political thought, compel it, as in the East, to adapt 
itself to the interests of oppression ; because the slaves 
were imported foreigners, a fluctuating population lying 
outside the social community, not oppressed citizens, not 
the people themselves reduced to subjection. The social 
and intellectual questions developed in Greece between 
citizens and citizens, not between masters and slaves. 

The primitive Greeks had, like every other race, their 
religious traditions and customs, their rituals and their 
mythology ; and many eastern cults became inevitably 
acclimatized among them. But religion with the Greek 
tribes, as with the Norse, the Germanic, the Latin popu- 
lations, stands for something altogether different as 
regards its character and the place it occupies in human 
life, from the religions of the eastern river-lands. And 
the difference depends upon the circumstance that the 
whole sphere of religious thought in the East was from 
the first indissolubly bound up with the chief source 
of class power and privilege ; it was the religion of a 
theocracy whose power and authority rested wholly upon 
religious ideas, and whose culture accordingly moved 


exclusively within the orbit of religion. Nothing of 
the kind occurred elsewhere. Religion as the all in all 
of human life, engrossing the whole of man's thought 
and activities, dominating supreme in every sphere, ex- 
cluding every other point of view, religion in the sense in 
which it is still understood, is a product of the East. 
It assumed that hypertrophic development only where 
the life of the people depended upon the supernatural 
fertility of the land, and where the priest, the representa- 
tive of the supernatural power, consequently controlled 
every source of human existence. The religious rites 
and beliefs of the Greeks were, like those of other 
people, chiefly associated with the fertility of the soil, 
with the operations of agriculture, with seed-time and 
harvest. But then the Greeks were not an agricultural 
people. Except in Thessaly, Bceotia, and Messenia, there 
was no good agricultural land in Greece. And those 
districts, Thessaly the mother of witches, and Bceotia 
the home of oracles, always remained the most backward 
in Greek civilization. ' The goodness of the land," 
Thucydides significantly observes, " favoured the 
aggrandizement of particular individuals and thus 
created faction, which proved a prolific source of ruin." 
Attica, on the contrary, " from the poverty of its soil," 
enjoyed a continuous development. With the Greeks 
the supernatural was merely an attempt at explanation, 
a form of speculation issued from the popular mind. 
It was democratic ; it had no vested interest at its 
back, no consecrated guardians watchful, with all the 
force of self-preservative instincts, for the inviolate pro- 
tection of its sanctity. The poets were at liberty and 
welcome to remodel traditional fables, to play with 
popular mythology as their fancy dictated. No inevit- 
able connection was even recognized between morality 
and religion ; there were rites due to the gods and to 
the dead, but relations with the living were a matter of 
natural justice. Clearly it would have been impossible 
for the sacerdotal Chaldsean or Egyptian thinker to look 
upon the problems of nature and of life from a purely 
secular point of view, to ask what the world was made of, 
whether of one kind of substance assuming many forms, 


or of the combination of a few elementary substances, 
or of atoms, and what really was the nature of the 
changes continually taking place in the world, whether 
they were real or only apparent. Such speculations 
entirely divorced from any reference to the authority 
of the gods could not occur to the theocrat ; far less 
could they be put forth by him as hypotheses inviting 
discussion. Compare the mythopoetic attitude of the 
oriental priest, of the Egyptian before the fact of death, 
with the sublime agnosticism of the dying Socrates : 
44 Whether life or death is better is known to God, and 
God only." From such an attitude of thought the eastern 
theocrat was absolutely debarred. It is not, observe, that 
the Greek was more ingenious, cleverer, but simply that 
he was able to look at things secularly, that is, with 
his mind dissociated from the obsession of religious 
traditions and views. For the religious oriental that was 
impossible. The oriental priests laid the foundations 
of science by their patience of observation and attention 
to details, and the Greeks had not patience enough for 
the mere observation and collection of facts and noting 
of details ; but when it came to use and interpret facts, 
it was the Greek who was scientific and the oriental who 
could not be so. When some one brought .to Perikles a 
ram's head with a curious single horn growing in the 
middle of its brow, a soothsayer was prompt with his 
interpretation, drawing omens and prophecies from the 
circumstance. But Anaxagoras, xvho happened to be 
present, split the skull in two and showed how the 
monstrosity was the natural effect of a mal-development 
in the bones of the skull. It was in Greece for the first 
time that the mind could move freely outside the charmed 
circle of authoritative tabus and rnysticisms. 

Thus it was that when the Greek tribes came in contact 
with, and culled the fruits of the old civilizations, the 
civilizations of the Orient, they transformed them into 
a new power, a new phase of human evolution. 

It was not in Greece that the Hellenic mind was 
formed. The ' miracle of Greece ' took place in Asia. 


There already the sagas and ' chansons de gestes ' of 
the Achaean tribes' heroes, and their battles in Thessaly 
and round Cadmean Thebes, had collected about the 
story of the fight for Troy which, in a later age, came 
to be symbolic of the opposition between Europe and 
Asia a name given in Homer to a meadowland in Lydia. 
There Greek tribes had settled on the Anatolian sea- 
board and the adjoining islands as far down as Rhodes 
and the headlands of Knidos and Halicarnassos, and 
been held up in Cilicia by the Assyrian troops of 
Sennacherib. It was among migrants from Attica 
driven by a Dorian wave that the Greek spirit actually 
came to birth and full power. On the fringe of that rich, 
oriental Lydian kingdom, whence the youth of Colophon 
came back, Xenophanes complained, flaunting eastern 
dresses in the agora and reeking with perfumes ; where, 
at the court of Sardis, the Athenian Solon, like a country 
yokel, mistook each gorgeously clad courtier with his 
train of attendants for the king ; and when the king took 
him round Ms treasure-houses and sought to dazzle him 
with the wealth of vases, and tripods of gold and electron, 
and the jewels, golden clasps and chains, and pectorals, 
and golden sand from Tmolos, and the new device of 
coined money beautifully designed to his order by Ionian 
artists, and Babylonian carpets, and carved cedar trunks 
full of rich embroidered garments, the Greek refused 
to be impressed, to the annoyance of the king 1 , who 
expected the usual hyperbolic, oriental compliments how 
characteristic the whole anecdote is of the Greek attitude 1 
it was that semi-Asiatic Ionia which was the cradle 
of Greek culture, whence it harked back with trade to 
the Attic mainland, as also did sea-love and sea-power. 
While Anacreon of Teos, and Alcaeos, and " burning 
Sappho " of Lesbos " loved and sang," Greek intellect 
rose in the harbour-cities and islands of Ionia to the 
first splendour and was it not also the best and soundest? 
of its creative power. From Miletos the sea -queen 
at the mouth of the Menander, whose fleets plied regu- 
larly to Egyptian Naukratis, and Abydos, and Byzantium, 
and the Crimea, and the rest of her sixty daughter 
colonies, and where the caravans from Susa and Babylon 


ended their journey, came Thales fully equipped with 
the lore of Egypt and Chaldaea, and first introduced 
mathematics and astronomy and philosophical speculation 
to Greek lands ; and Anaximenes who thought all land 
animals, including man, were descended from fishes ; and 
Hecataios who travelled oriental lands and wrote a 
description of the world half a century before Herodotos 
of Halicarnassos followed in his footsteps ; and Anaxi- 
mander who first drew maps, such as that * brass table ' 
with which his countryman Aristagoras astonished the 
Spartans when he sought to induce them to attack Lydia, 
" with all the seas and all the rivers set down 
upon it." He was said too to have " invented the 
gnomon," but that had been in use for ages at Babylon, 
and it was customary to credit the first Greek who 
introduced an Egyptian or Babylonian invention with 
its discovery, just as in the Middle Ages every Arabian 
invention was credited to whomsoever in Europe first 
happened to mention or use it. From ' piney ' Colophon 
came Xenophanes railing at the gods whom Homer and 
Hesiod had pictured immoral, and whom oxes and horses 
would have pictured bovine or equine, and taught 
Parmenides of Elea from whom Plato learned. From 
Clazomena} came the great Anaxagoras who " brought 
Ionian science to Athens," and taught his friend Euripides 
4 atheism.' From Ephesos came Heracleitos, that Ionian 
Nietzsche who in proud scorn denounced the vulgar in- 
stincts of the herd, who, like asses, preferred chaff to 
gold, and the man-made values which it mistook for 
eternal realities, while Nature and her unswerving forces 
of perpetual change and becoming were beyond good 
and evil ; and from the Milesian colony of Abdera came 
Democritos who conceived matter as composed of atoms ; 
and (from Samos Pythagoras, half scientific genius, half 
crank, whom tradition, perhaps too lightly dismissed, 
made the pupil, not only of Chaldaean and Egyptian 
priests, but of Persian and Indian teachers. 

Thus was the old wine of the Orient put into the new 
bottles of Greek- Criticism and rationalism. 

It was that concourse of exceptionally favourable con- 
ditions which moulded those qualities of the Greek mind 


by virtue of which all the evolutionary forces of the 
race were liberated and the world transformed. The 
agency which brought about that leap forward of human 
evolution in Hellas, was the self-same agency which 
produced that other forward bound in the last three 
centuries of the modern world unfettered criticism and 
rational thought. 

Greece built the European world ; but her task was 
destructive as well as constructive. It was not so 
much at Marathon, at Salamis, at Plataea, at Mycale, 
that Greece overcame the Orient ; her chief victory over 
it took place in the process of her mental growth. The 
East was beaten ere a single soldier-slave of the Great 
King had set foot across the Hellespont. 

The many-nationed hosts of Persia and her Tynan 
fleets were by no means the sole, nor the chief menace 
which Greece had to encounter. At one time the 
fate of Europe, the fate of human evolution had been 
in even more grievous peril than when Xerxes stood, 
with the blazing and smoking ruins of the old Acropolis 
behind him, " on the rocky brow that frowns o'er sea- 
born Salamis." A century earlier the destinies of the 
world had, for a moment, even more fearfully and 
momentously trembled in the balance. And it was not 
the hoplites and seamen of Greece that saved them 
then, but a handful of gruff old men in Ionia solitarily 
thinking and revolving in their minds unpractical 
things . 

As the barbaric Achaean tribes grew under fertilizing 
contacts into the Hellenes, their myths and gods had 
concurrently been shedding all trace of supernatural 
solemnity and sinking to the level of good-humoured 
rustic tales. Old Hesiod had only made matters worse 
by his endeavour to shape into a nai've theology under 
Babylonian inspiration the tangle of popular folk-lore ; 
and to the Homeric bards the court of Olympus was 
but the feudal court of a joyous Achaean chieftain and 
his boon -companions. The native ^Egean deities ad- 
mitted on sufferance into the conqueror's pantheon helped 



to bring discredit upon it by being allotted the parts of 
mere hangers-on and buffoons ; the honest blacksmith 
Hephaistos got nothing but kicks from Zeus and a 
pretty wife who made him a laughingstock, the great 
god Pan had to take his place in the train of the young 
Dionysos, Hermes became a signpost to set travellers 
on their way. To the new mind of Hellas the old 
tribal mythology which it had outgrown became, as a 
religion, utterly unadapted and unadaptable. 

In the world before Greece was, in the oriental world, 
only one thing could, under those circumstances, have 
happened. A new, a * higher,' more ' spiritual ' 
religion would have evolved and taken her place at 
the helm of the mind of the race. Had that come about 
there would have been no Hellenic mind as we know 
it, no western civilization built upon the foundation of 
that extra -religious development. And it was in fact 
only by the narrowest margin that that catastrophe was 
averted and Europe made possible. On all sides the 
religious ideas of the East lay, as it were, on the 
watch for the opportunity that offered. From the dark 
bosom of Mother -earth, that invisible nether-world that 
holds the supreme mystery of fructification and genera- 
tion, of the eternal recurrence of life, and death, and 
rebirth, arose the veiled, phantasmal shapes of the 
' chthonic ' deities, Demeter, and Persephone, Hades, 
and Hecate, and Hermes psychopompos, the lords of 
the resurrection and the life everlasting. At Eleusis, 
returned merchants had brought new light out of the 
land of Osiris, and the elect, cleansed of all impurities 
by ritual waters, was initiated in the Egyptian hypostyle 
hall of the Telesterion to the mysteries of religion, and 
admitted to partake of the mystic meal at which the 
high priest, successor and representative of Tryptolemos, 
raised the holy symbol of the wheat-ear, the bread of 
life, the body of the ever-dying and resurrecting god. 
Eleusinian religion established itself, as we know, pretty 
firmly in Greek life, and all Athens set forth by torch- 
light on the night of the winter solstice to celebrate 
the feast of the Nativity. 

In the ruder North another god of the nether-world, 


Orpheus, was in the sixth century received with ecstatic 
religious transports, and with him was blended the 
ancient Thracian Dionysos ; not the Hellenized joyous 
Dionysos of Athens, but a transformed, mystic Dionysos, 
said to be connected with India, tonsured and mitred, 
robed in magic vestments, and bearing a staff, or cross, 
twined with symbolic vine, who had given his blood for 
the world. With him again were identified, in the 
commingling of myths, other dying Phrygian and Syrian 
gods, Zagreos, ' Attis, Adonis, and the Eleusinian 
lacchos. The rustic population became possessed with 
a wild religious frenzy which led to ecstatic visions, 
and the dancing madness spread like an epidemic 
through the Greek world. 

In the enthusiasm of that revival the temple priests 
came forth out of their obscurity and neglect, and began 
to speak with authority. New elaborate systems of 
theology were promulgated, the proper organization of 
religion, the union of cults, were much spoken of ; the 
old cults were anxious to conform and harmonize ; the 
Delphic oracles began to be given out by a woman in 
a state of orgiastic ecstasis. Proselytizing missionaries 
and preachers, metragyrtes, orpheotelestes, theopho- 
rites, went abroad teaching and preaching in the market- 
places, announcing the god, healing the sick, claiming 
" a power derived from Heaven that enables them by 
incantations, ceremonies, and the partaking of meals, 
to atone for any crime committed by the individual or 
his forefathers. They produce many books from which 
their rituals are drawn, and persuade not only single 
persons, but entire states, that they may be purified 
and absolved from sin, both in this life and after death, 
by the performance of certain ceremonies which they 
call * Mysteries,' and which are supposed to save us 
from the torments of Hades, while neglect of them 
is punished by an awful doom." l One of those 
prophets, Onomacritos, gained considerable influence 
and favour at the Athenian court of Peisistratos, 
and was employed in the preparation of the new edition 
of the Homeric poems into which he managed to slip 
* Plato, Resp. II. 364, 365. 


some ' Orphic ' passages. He had, however, the 
misfortune to be caught red-handed at the old game 
of forging documents some poems which he sought to 
father on Musaeos. And instead of regarding the pious 
fraud in a broad-minded, sympathetic w,ay, as some 
quite respectable * variety of religious experience/ the 
Athenians had the bad taste to pronounce him! a liar 
and a scamp, and Onomacritos was discredited and 

So indeed was, after a brief suspense, the whole Orphic 
religious movement. Jt had seemed, indeed, as if Greece 
were on the point of being submerged, as if inevitably 
the dead hand of a theocracy were about to be laid 
upon the cradle of human thought, and the liberation 
of the world be for ever stifled or indefinitely prorogued. 
Fortunately Greek thought was already awake. The 
names of the heroes who then saved the world were 
not Miltiades, Themistocles, Pausanias, but Thales, 
Xenophanes, Heracleitos. The thinkers of Ionia had 
not thought and spoken in vain ; they had revealed to 
man a new dignity and a new power in himself. Against 
the new madness in particular, against those ignorant 
exploiters of ignorance, the preaching god -bearers, " the 
most pestilent brood I wot of,"' as Athenasus, a gleaner 
of old texts, calls them, " save, perhaps, those who go 
round collecting subscriptions for the Demeter " ; against 
all the hosts of unreason, their voice was raised in hot 
and indignant protest. 

And Greece, the better instinct of Greece, heard the 
summons and rallied round its thinkers. Even before 
the people of Croton summarily put an end to the 
Pythagorean mystic brotherhood, Orpheus had slunk 
away out of sight, and Greece had peremptorily 
given to all mystagogues notice to quit and cease 
from fooling. ' Of uncertainty and mystery there 
is, by Zeus, enough in this strange, rich life, and 
to spare. But how shall the myths and mum- 
meries of a barbarian priest help it, or make it less, 
or otherwise? What can be known we shall seek to 
know with all the might of the honest means of know- 
ledge whereof we dispose ; and what we cannot know 


we shall face fearlessly with no less honest ignorance. 
But while power remains to the mind of Hellas, the 
thought of man shall at least be free, and to the gene- 
rations to come, so long as they can hear her voice, 
Hellas shall bequeath that heritage of freedom.' 

When with languid, half -condescending curiosity we 
seek to gather from the surviving fragments and muti- 
lated relics collected in Diels's book some notion of the 
ideas and conceptions, often to us somewhat naive and 
crude, of the early thinkers of Ionia, how many of us 
realize clearly, or at all, that if it is given to us to-day 
to face the world and its problems with open eyes, 
with some small measure of adequate power of clear 
judgment, and some armoury of accumulated knowledge 
and understanding, it is to those men, who to most 
are little more than empty names, to them in the first 
place and beyond all others who have subsequently 
utilized the freedom they won, that we owe it? 

The Greeks were the most purely rationalistic people 
that ever lived. They were so to a far greater extent 
than we are, because our modern thought has operated 
only by throwing off laboriously and with only partial 
success the superincumbent weight of accumulated 
tradition and prejudice ; whereas with the Greeks 
there was virtually no such weight to be thrown off. 
Therein lies the unique, perennial charm which pervades 
all Greek thought and literature. In perusing it we 
meet with much that is crude, with some ideas that are 
absurd, with others which from the vantage point of 
our present knowledge are hopelessly erroneous and 
puerile ; but we never come across obdurate, inveterate 
prejudice. We always feel that we are in the presence 
of open minds, in which the growth of thought, the 
inquiring spirit, is never choked, supplanted by dead, 
hardened formulas, by immovable, blinding, dogmatic 
preconceptions. Compare old Herodotos, who is by 
no means a Xenophanic sceptic, but on the contrary 
a rather pious person, with the turgid, bombastic, loyal 
annalists of India, Assyria, Egypt, or Judaea, who 


invariably wrote thousands for hundreds, and millions 
for thousands, and in whom we have to exc-a- 
vate every fact from under an impenetrable mound 
of miracle -mongering and nauseating panegyric! When- 
ever Herodotos meets with the miraculous and super- 
natural, or even with patriotic exaggeration, he is filled 
with distrust and determined scepticism. " How could 
a dove speak with human voice? " he asks when told 
the legend of the priestess of Dodona ; the ravine 
Peneios was caused by Poseidon striking the earth with 
his trident, he was told, " but it appears evident to me 
that it is the effect of an earthquake " ; the Persian 
fleet was tossed about for three days until the Magi 
quelled the storm by offering prayers and sacrifices, 
"or else it slackened of its own accord." Even when 
he recounts the most glowing moments in the glories of 
his own people he jibs at any improbability. When, 
for instance, he relates the story of Scyllias of Scione, 
the famous diver, who was said to have swum eighty 
stadia to give the Athenian fleet at Artemisium warn- 
ing of the coming Persians, he adds simply, "If, how- 
ever, I may offer an opinion in the matter, it is, that 
he came in a boat." It is not that his intelligence- 
was abnormally acute was it really more acute than 
that of those genial and learned Egyptian and Baby- 
lonian priests with whom he conversed? but because 
there were no influences in the Greek world which 
branded disbelief in the miraculous or in adulatory 
exaggerations as 'wicked.' The Greek mind developed 
not because it had essentially more power, but because 
that power was not crippled. 

A passion for rationalism became its supreme charac- 
teristic. To reason, to argue, to discuss, was their 
delight. Politics, government had with them always 
meant discussion, conflicts of arguments, not ukases ; 
and they extended the habit to every phase of life. 
They were the first to rationalize (in the theological 
sense), to criticize, and to reject their own religious 
traditions. They constructed formal logic ; they re- 
duced dialectics to a science ; eloquence with them 
meant argument, and they worshipped eloquence above 


all things ; their drama ever tended towards a pendulum 
swing of pros and cons. Art itself, the art which 
produced the Parthenon that ' syllogism in marble,' 
as Boutmy calls it and Greek sculpture, was obsessed 
with ' canons,' modules, standards, with a desire to 
penetrate to the rationale of the artistic effect. Ictinos, 
who raised on the Attic rock the beauty pure and 
perennial of the ' Maiden's Chamber,' wrote a treatise 
expounding the logical principles upon which he 
wrought. And the spirit of their art manifested itself 
in ordered regularity and symmetry, corresponding as 
it were to the balanced and orderly disposition of 
logical thought ; in Olympian calm expressive of the 
composed serenity of detached judgment. 

They carried the passion for conscious, deliberate 
ratiocination paradoxical as it may seem to excess. 
To the Greek the very form of ratiocination had a 
captivating and irresistible fascination. No entertain- 
ment held the populace like a display of argumentative 
acuteness. They came to delight in dialectics for their 
own sake. A favourite exercise of their orators, was 
to establish a position by argument one day, and to 
demolish it the next. They were ratiocinative even 
to the neglect of the foundations of rational thought, of 
investigation and experience, of the practical methods 
of trial and error. And thus, as we shall see more 
fully, they missed science and remained pre -scientific. 
It is worth while noticing that the Greeks had not in 
any very high degree what we call the passion for truth ; 
the frenzy for getting to the very root of facts, to explain, 
the ideal of the supreme sanctity of truth. They were 
rather impatient of nonsense, of pseudo -explanations 
which are an insult to intelligence, than possessed with 
any high passion for truth for its own sake. Cleverness, 
beauty, and moral beauty, they admired rather than 
truth ; a clever plausibility would satisfy them without 
any too severe inquiry as to whether it was true. 

It is no disparagement to say that under the conditions 
then available, Greek thought did not at once attain to 
complete perfection of method and results. Such as 
it was, it was the most marvellous efflorescence in the 


evolution of the human race. It was Greece who 
unfolded the wings of the human mind, created man 
homo sapiens anew, initiated and made possible all sub- 
sequent evolution of the race. 

It need cause no wonder that the career of Greece 
was so brief ; the wonder is not that the greatness of 
Greece failed to maintain itself longer, but that it 
succeeded in maintaining itself at all. It was a 
premature birth, only rendered possible by an excep- 
tionally propitious concourse of circumstances. The 
world was not in a condition to allow of any rational 
society ; human experience was utterly insufficient to 
serve as an adequate basis for such an uncompromisingly 
rational attitude as that of the Greeks. Politically 
they had managed to preserve the essential spirit of 
primitive tribal democracy throughout all the altered 
conditions of advanced civilization, in spite of the 
numberless agencies which in the ordinary course of 
human circumstances necessarily put an end to it. They 
had withstood and overcome the encroachments of war- 
chiefs, the pretensions of nobles, the almost irresistible 
despotism of money -power, the corruption of foreign 
gold, the armed power of the Persian. They had by 
radical and elaborate contrivances endeavoured to adapt 
democracy to the changed conditions. But that achieve- 
ment was almost a paradox, a state of unstable equili- 
brium which could not in the nature of things be kept 
up indefinitely. 

With some peoples decadence sets in insidiously 
through the operation of inherent faults which slowly 
creep and extend and eat them up ; others lose their 
balance at the very height of their success, and through 
those very virtues and qualities that made it. The 
latter was the case with Greece, or what is for us the 
same thing, Athens. After the repulse of the Persians 
the Athenians grew intensely self-conscious of their great- 
ness and glory and became infested with the toxaemia 
of jingo -patriotism. Patriotism is an altruistic virtue ; 
it means the subordination of individual self-interest 
to that of the community. But then it all depends upon 
what precisely is understood by 'the community.' To 


be patriotic towards, say, Manchester may conceivably 
mean to be unpatriotic towards England. Athens was 
patriotic towards Athens and unpatriotic towards Greece. 
That incurable separatism, those wanton, fatal bickering's 
of half a dozen trumpery villages, appear to us unspeak- 
ably foolish and absurd, and only to be explained by 
some peculiar ' individualistic ' twist of the Greek 
character. But that separatism and interstate anarchy 
were as wanton and foolish as European separatism and 
anarchy, no more and no less. Size is merely relative 
and has nothing to do with the matter ; the city- 
state was the political unit of the Greek world as the 
nation-state is of the European, and even in his Utopia 
Plato could not conceive of any other political unit. 
A league of Greek nations, such as the Cynic and 
Cyrenaic philosophers advocated, was all very well before 
the instant menace of Persian aggression, but as a 
permanent order it was an unpractical dream outside 
the sphere of political realities. It would, for one thing, 
mean the giving up of the command of the sea, and 
that, of course, was not even to be thought of. So 
Athenians stuck to ' the empire/ and stood up for 
Athens first, Athens right or wrong. The nemesis came 
sharp and swift in the quarries of Syracuse and on 
the sands of ^Egospotami ; and when the traitor Alki- 
biades brazenly asked the Athenians whether it would 
pay them better to accept Persian gold as the price 
of democracy, or perish utterly, they hung their heads 
in silence. And when the Spartan Agesilaos actually 
went forth in one last attack against Persia, he was driven 
back, he said, " by thirty thousand bowmen," meaning 
the golden darics stamped with the figure of the Great 
King as an archer, with which the Greeks at home had 
been bribed and bought, and his recall secured. 

Hellas, torn and , exhausted by incurable petty 
patriotisms and jealousies and strifes, and all the name- 
less corruption and ignoble selfishness and lying which 
such contests breed, was, it was clear to every one, 
fast sinking lower and lower ; and the ' Peace of 
Antalkidas ' made her virtually a subject -state of the 
Great King, from whom the Greek states abjectly took 


their orders. The blossom was drooping and withering 
on its stem. How long would it be before the closing 
tides of barbarism, which were already strangling the 
Greek colonies in Italy, and the irresistible power of 
Persia, before which, like a shivering bird hypnotized 
by a serpent, Hellas lay a doomed and helpless prey, 
would make an end of Hellenic civilization? How much 
of it, if anything at all, would survive? Those were 
obviously the only questions. When, behold, a strange 
thing suddenly happened : instead of dying, Hellenic 
civilization conquered the world. 

There were some Greek tribes probably as purely 
Greek, notwithstanding Peonian and Illyrian admixtures, 
as the Athenians and Milesians, who had remained in 
the backwaters of the Southern Balkans, cut off from 
the operation of the influences which produced Ionia 
and Hellas. Note once more the true relative values 
of race and environment : they remained insignificant 
barbarians in exactly the same condition as the early 
Greek tribes. Their mediocre little barbaric kingdom 
was of no account until one of their kings sought to 
introduce Greek culture and Grew to his court artists 
and poets from the south, Zeuxis the famous painter, 
Hippocrates the physician, possibly Thucydides the 
historian, Timotheos of Miletos the poet and musician, 
Agathon the tragic poet, and another far greater and 
more tragic poet also, Euripides by name, a very sad 
and very weary old man, with his faith in humanity 
sorely bruised and shaken, who went thither to die, 
and, before dying, wrote there his swan -song, the 
Bacchce. The successor of King Archelaos who was 
brought up at Thebes perceived the possibilities pre- 
sented by the disintegration of the Greek city-states, 
systematically trained an army and, after defeating 
Athens and Thebes at Chasronea, established a kind 
of ' sphere of influence ' over all Greece, getting himself 
appointed archistrategos, or, as one might say in Latin, 
imperator of the Hellenes. His son even more carefully 
educated his chief tutor was Aristotle landed a very 
efficiently trained and equipped little army, the equivalent 
of some four modern divisions, on the plain of Troy, 


by the heroon of Achilles, scattering the satrapic armies 
before him at the Granicos, liberated both the willing 
and unwilling cities of Ionia, and after a couple of 
pitched battles the whole ' ramshackle empire ' of 
Persia, the whole known world of the Near East, Asia 
Minor, Phoenicia, Babylon, Palestine, Egypt, lay at his 
feet. He pushed on beyond the limits of the known 
world, meeting with Chinese in Baktria, founding 
Kandahar l in the Afghan tableland, and did not 
stop till he had entered Lahore and Hyderabad. 
When he returned to rest awhile and prepare for 
the conquest of the West in Babylon, the old 
first metropolis of all civilization, submissive embassies 
came to the young new Dionysos to offer him the 
homage of the whole world, Arabs, Ethiopians, Scythians, 
Carthaginians, Iberians, Gauls, Etruscans, Italians from 
Brutium, Samnites whether also from a little village 
called Rome, history does not mention. The whole 
world was Hellenized. 

The fertilizing spirit of Hellas was spread over the 
whole earth for all peoples and for all times. But not 
in its purity. The Orient, after all, had its revenge, 
its terrible and fatal revenge. The conquering young 
Greek hero had offered sacrifice to Artemis at Ephesos, 
to Melkarth at Tyre, to Ahura Mazda at Ecbatana, 
to Ptah at Memphis, to Ammon at Siwa, to Yaveh at 
Jerusalem. And the Gods of the East smiled. 

As in the political aspect so also in the intellectual, 
Greece had, before Alexander, been slowly succumbing 
to Persia and to pride. 

She had been an eager pupil of every one who had 
anything to teach, she had grown to glorious intellectual 
power by absorbing all available knowledge from all 
sources. But she grew too deeply conscious of her pre- 
eminence and glory and came to think in her pride that 
she had nothing to learn from the barbarian. " So far 
behind has our city left all others in thought and 
language, that her pupils are the teachers of the world, 
1 Iskandar = Alexander. 


and she has made the name of Greek seem no longer 
a badge of blood but of mind, and men are called 
Greeks more because they have part in our culture 
than because they come of a common stock." 

She succumbed to the very power which she despised. 
The early giants had attempted the sublime task of 
casting off all assumption and convention, of founding 
the mind of man upon no other foundation than rational 
thought. That quixotic attempt in an age hardly 
emerged from barbaric nescience, was not in vain, but 
it was, of course, hopeless in its audacity. They had 
no basis, no facts, no systematized experience whereon 
to build. And their successors in the pride of pure 
reason came more and more to reject and despise mere 
observation and inquiry, to cast aside the germs of the 
scientific spirit upon whose foundations, scanty as they 
were, the early thinkers had built. All the forces of 
mysticism, will-to-believe, and fine sentiments, were 
battering at the door like Persian hosts round 
Thermopylae. Thought lacking the armoury of exact 
data, was incapable of offering resistance to the oriental 
hordes of nebulous visions and opium dreams which 
steadily crept over the ground reclaimed by rational 
thought. Plato shines with a splendour which is already 
in large measure phosphoric. From Platonism to Neo- 
Platonism is but a step. As Greece had transmuted 
the barbaric tinsels of the Orient into rich gold, so 
the East once more seized upon the jewels of Greece 
and wove them into mystic, cabalistic webs, into its 
gnosticisms and theologies. 



SUPERFICIALLY the origin of Rome somewhat resembles 
that of Greece small tribes (gentes) in whom a jealous 
spirit of independence is inveterate. Here the patres 
jamilias, not the tribal war -chiefs, are the natural rulers 
wielding stern familial authority, and will become the 
patres conscripti and the ruling patrician aristocracy. 
As in Greece, phases of ' kingship ' were swept away 
by the insubordinate forces of tribal democracy. As 
in Greece, violent struggles and conflicts took place 
between patrician and plebeian, and here again the forces 
of self-defence proved too powerful to allow of any 
complete triumph on the part of encroaching privilege. 
As Athens had its Solonian and Kleisthenean revolutions, 
so Rome had its Secessions to the Sacred Hill, and its 
Licinian laws . 

But under that superficial similarity lay differences 
which could scarcely be more profound. While the 
Greek of poverty-stricken Hellas was perforce a sea- 
rover, a pirate, an adventurer, tasting of all the rich 
fruits of the eastern world, the Romans were a tribe 
of stay-at-home farmers, with all the peasant's limita- 
tion of outlook, conservatism, stolid abstemiousness, plod- 
ding stubbornness, his close -fistedness and keen eye for 
the main chance. The necessity of defending their crops 
and of settling boundary disputes with neighbouring 
tribes, made it a routine of their lives to be periodically 
called out on commando. But they were not tempera- 
mentally bellicose nor particularly liked war for its own 
sake. They waged it with cool business-like method 
and calculation, and early learnt to attain their ends 
by negotiation, alliances and hard -driven bargains. They 
intensely distrusted and disliked adventure. 



It was a freakish paradox of fate which thrust upon 
those cautious, unimaginative Italian Boers the part of 
world-conquerors. When first drawn into wide foreign 
embroilments after the first Punic War, they proclaimed 
a policy of no annexations (and large indemnities). 
Scipio expressed the general and deep traditional feeling 
when he advocated a Monroe doctrine deprecating all 
expansion beyond the Tuscan Apennine and the 
peninsula ; and we find the same caution recurring 
even so late as the political testament of Augustus, and 
in Hadrian's renouncement of the conquests of Trajan. 
Only when their peasants' eyes were set agape at the 
sight of the undreamed-of wealth brought from Pontus 
and Syria by Lucullus and Pompey, did they lose their 
heads and become infected with the get-rich-quick fever. 

What drove them to go empire -building was not any 
romantic ambition or love of glory, or vanity, such as 
might actuate an oriental despot, or any hollow ideal 
of empire and passion for ruling, but purely and simply 
the desire to make money, to make money quickly. 
The conquests, as they soon saw, offered plenty of 
opportunities ; the farming of taxes, army contracts, the 
financing of political aspirants, money-lending at ex- 
orbitant rates, and, richest prize of all, the government 
of a province, when the raising of the tribute was left 
to the proconsul, and no questions asked. Those were 
the chief ways of making large fortunes ; there were 
no great industrial enterprises then, no railways or oil- 
wells, no great commercial organizations. The money 
had to be invested and, as there were no industrial 
and commercial shares, or gilt -edged securities, the 
only possible form of permanent investment was land. 
They invested their money in land. The original small 
farmer being more and more frequently absent on active 
service, his farm, left to the care of some elderly relatives 
and a few slaves, went to rack and ruin. He was 
easily mortgaged or bought out. Italy was thus soon 
divided into vast estates which were productively and 
economically worked by means of slave -labour which 
the wars supplied in abundance. After Italy the foreign 
provinces soon followed. In the famous impeachment 


of Verres, Cicero brought out the fact that in one 
district of Sicily there were, when Verres went there as 
propraetor, 773 landed proprietors, and three years later 
only 318. Half the province of Africa was at the time 
of the early Caesars owned by six landlords. 

There is no harm in making money and investing 
it. But what was to become of the dispossessed farmer? 
There were no factories or other employment for him 
to go to, he had perforce to go back to the army 
or to lounge in Rome at the expense of the state. 
He had nothing left. "Your generals," said Tiberius 
Gracchus, " urge their men in battle, telling them 
to fight for their hearths and homes and the graves of 
their dear ones. They lie ; not one of all those Romans 
possesses a hearth or a home, or even a family grave. 
That others may enjoy riches and pleasures, that is 
what they are fighting and dying for, those Romans who 
are called ' masters of the world,' while they have not 
so much as a sod of earth that they can call their 
own." The wars of Lucullus, of Pompey, of Caesar 
had brought in hundreds of thousands of slaves who 
worked on the large estates. 'But thereafter the supply 
abruptly dwindled. Slaves did not breed, they had no 
families, there were few; women. Instead of .being cheap, 
they became expensive ; the labour supply failed. The 
freemen had to be employed ; they were employed as 
coloni ; they became bound more and more to the 
soil ; at first they paid rent, then a proportion of the 
produce, besides sundry customary ' gifts,' or xenia, 
then had to contribute a certain amount of labour to 
the working of the villa, to supply transport, etc., and 
finally, under Diocletian, they were completely bound 
to the soil, forbidden to move. They too became 'slaves, 
predial serfs in all but in name. And they too dwindled. 
The whole population decreased until it became an ever 
more serious problem how to keep up the strength of 
the armies, even for purely defensive purposes. In 
the early empire those vast frontiers, far more extensive 
than our battle -line on all fronts in the late war, were 
defended by garrisons amounting to the absurd number 
of about 300,000 men. 


Greek culture, which they at first fiercely resisted, 
did not sufficiently transform the enriched peasants to 
enable them to continue it, or use it as the starting- 
point of original development. The influx of civilization 
tended with them in general to coarseness, to the 
vulgarity and megalomania of the nouveau riche . In 
the pictorial arts they remained sterile, save for the 
production of the realistic portrait -bust the idealizing 
Greek never carved a real portrait. In architecture, 
while carrying to high development the engineering 
aspect o'f construction, as in the arch and the dome, 
they perpetrated and unfortunately perpetuated as 
regards the purely artistic and decorative aspect, the 
most appalling horrors of bad taste, such as the pilaster 
and the use of mixed orders. Greek drama bored them, 
they preferred mimes, buffoons and acrobats. 

To the end a stodgy pedestrianism remained the mark 
of their mentality. The sacred fire, the divine folly 
was never theirs. The very brief and evanescent grand 
siecle of their literature did not contribute a single 
creator to the Olympus of world inspirers, scarcely a 
work of genuine original inspiration Lucretius, the ex- 
ponent of Epicurus, and Catullus, the lover of Claudia 
Metella, are the nearest approach to exceptions. The 
first brief outgush of imitative production was followed 
by an almost unbroken sterility. Roman intellect tended 
forthwith to settle into a rut of cultural traditionalism ; 
it lived under the oppressive weight of * the great 
models,' who had set the standard of attainable excel- 
lence. The goal of literature was to approximate as 
closely as possible to the form and language of those 
consecrated great ones who had fixed the ideal for all 
time. In what is called the ' silver age/ the rococo 
Renaissance of Quintillian and Pliny, literary art consisted 
in imitating Cicero, whose language was as ' dead ' 
then as during the Italian Renaissance. Other writers, 
like Fronto and Apuleius, harked back to still older 
archaisms. " Multi ex alieno sceculo petunt verba: 
duodecim tabulas loquuntur " (Seneca, Ep. 114, 13). 
In the last stages of the empire the surviving cultural 
elements exhibit exactly the 1 same spirit and attitude 


which centuries later we find in the grammar ian- 
humanist, the antiquity -worshipper of the Renaissance. 
Like him they lived upon the past. Symmachus, 
Ausonius, and their contemporary belles -lettrists might 
be transferred without a single mental change from 
the fourth to the fifteenth century ; the ideal of refined 
culture was exactly the same in the two periods, the 
same which still lingers on to our own day in the 
academic tradition of classical scholarship to indite 
correctly Ciceronian periods, to compose a sweet thing 
in the way of well-turned Virgilian hexameters, or 
Horatian verses clothed in frowzy mythological language, 
to elaborate the obvious in elegant conversation on 
'polit* literature,' to take a childish delight in parading 
one's familiarity with the authors by a plentiful be- 
sprinkling of quotations, to rehearse with beatific mental 
vacuity the consecrated phrases, to * look down from 
the heights of scholarship upon the common herd.' 
Literature, thought, life itself, became a kind of ritual, 
a round of prescribed formulas and duties, serenely 
detached from the throbbing actualities of the world, 
a breviary of * correct things ' to be said, thought, 
and done correctly. 

But side by side with the fossilization of an imitative 
intellectual culture, there went on a process of genuine 
growth, one which, apart from the political legacy of 
Rome, and not altogether distinct even from that, con- 
stitutes her most momentous contribution to the world, 
and the most fundamental and distinctive feature of 
her mental development. That continuous process whose 
course runs unbroken from the first naturalization of 
culture down to the final submersion of its last lingering 
remnants, is one of moral development. In Greece with 
the first onset of symptoms of weariness in the 
metaphysical effort, philosophical thought had shown 
a tendency to concentrate upon the purely human 
problems of life and conduct. But it was chiefly in 
Rome that the tendency developed and matured. That 
ethical aspect was the only one which appealed to 



the Romans ; of metaphysics they took no account. 
A love of solemn moralizing, a Polonius-like senten- 
tiousness was always a trait of their peasant psychology. 
The creed of Stoicism, so congenial in its affinity tp 
the old austere Latin spirit, became their lay religion, 
the dominant vein of Roman thought. Its identification 
with the chief intellectual occupation of the cultivated 
classes, the sphere of law, the development of juris- 
prudence, led to the greatest and most permanent 
concrete achievement of Rome. All Roman thinkers 
were lawyers ; the ultimate goal and practical applica- 
tion of their education, their literary, their rhetorical, 
their philosophic training, was the law-courts. This 
was a natural consequence of the administrative tasks 
and problems thrust upon them by the expanding empire. 
It was the great discovery of their cautious, matter- 
of-fact minds " omnium virtutum et utilitalum rapa- 
cissimi " * that the only really effective way to manage 
and rule men, is by a certain amount of fairness and 
justice, that honesty is an asset in business, even if 
that business be the most atrociously immoral exploita- 
tion. They had long recognized that the principle of 
freedom and justice to conquered populations was the 
most practically efficient, as well as fiscally the most 
profitable. In those circumstances the old code of 
the Twelve Tables required constant adaptation and 
supplementing by means of case law; heterogeneous 
populations had to be dealt with under the principles of 
the jus gentium, that is, legal norms common to all 
nations; and this in time gave rise and place to the 
conception of a jus natnrale, natural principles of equity, 
a notion which, although vaguely supposed to refer 
to some ideal * state of nature,' simply amounted to 
this, that all privilege and social distinctions, all 
arbitrary traditional usages, must be regarded as 
artificial conventions, and that justice rests therefore 
upon the necessary postulate of unsophisticated equality. 
Fifteen centuries before Rousseau and the Droits da 
I'homme, Ulpian laid down the principle that " All 
men are born free and equal." From that great and 
Plin; Hist. Nat. 25, 3, 4. 


noble growth of Roman law which went on broadening 
out continuously in its spirit of humanity and justice 
almost down to the last breath of Roman power, 
abolishing the fierce patriarchal tradition of parental 
tyranny, protecting the widow and the orphan, ex- 
tenuating slavery almost to the verge of abolition 
from that highest achievement of the Roman mind, 
philosophic thought, the rational theory of life, was 
from the first recognized to be inseparable. The 
philosophers of Rome were her lawyers and legislators; 
the juridic and philosophic thought were one. 

The growth of Roman law was, indeed, but an 
expression of an ethical evolution, of the development 
of a particular ethical ideal, which went on throughout 
the career of the Roman mind, and which though I 
shall not stop just now to judge of its absolute validity 
represented, and is still commonly held to represent, the 
supreme standard of moral excellence. Of that stream 
of ethical development the literature of Tacitean diatribes 
and homiletical tracts on ideal Germans and Agricolas, 
the fierce denunciations of satirists, which furnish the 
materials for the dear old conventional myth of 
' growing moral corruption,' are manifestations. So 
in a more direct way is the long series of moral and, 
devotional manuals, and ' consolations,' from Cicero 
to Seneca, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, and Plutarch. 
A whole set of informal institutions attended the estab- 
lishment of that lay religion of morality. The moral 
sermon became part of the regular routine of life, and 
large congregations crowded under the pulpits of the 
fashionable preachers. From the days of Paulus 
^milius it became customary in the homes of the 
aristocracy to keep a household chaplain, or philosopher; 
the exhortations and consolations of the most reputed 
spiritual directors were eagerly sought after at all times 
of affliction and distress; and auricular confession was 
constantly enjoined and practised. Nor was the 
movement confined to the cultured and aristocratic. The 
capital and the countryside swarmed with itinerant 
preachers, and the populace were exhorted in their own 
rough speech to the higher life by the mendicant brothers 


whose rules and tenets have been described to us by 
Epictetus. They were vowed to poverty and celibacy, 
they were fathers to all, men being their spiritual sons 
and women their daughters in God, they preached as 
messengers from God the gospel of renunciation and 
repentance, they were to suffer calmly scoffs, insults 
and blows, and to love them that did them wrong and 
persecuted them. 

In the closing centuries of the Western Empire the 
moralizing spirit tended, like the literary, to settle into 
an established vein of consecrated sentiment, growing 
somewhat frowzy and conventional. The typical Roman 
gentleman of the decadence, especially in the provinces 
the life of all large and wealthy, cities is always 
* immoral ' was a confirmed puritan, the model of 
staid bourgeois virtues, and as morally correct in his 
sentiments as in his literary tastes. He and his women- 
folk were quite early-Victorian in their stodgy beseem- 
ingness, strait-laced propriety, and serious earnestness 
on the subject of moral platitudes. He subscribed 
to charities, and read family ptrayers to the servants. 
If he did not adopt Christianity, it was because his 
settled toryism was somewhat shy of new-fangled labels ; 
he 'was not quite sure that the chapel people Were 
quite ' the thing/ and he disapproved of the undignified 
excesses of his friends who took to monasticism and 
hair-shirts. But in moral sentiment he was quint - 
essentially Christian, or rather his Christian neighbour's 
moral sentiments were nought else than his own pagan 
righteousness associated with extraneous mystic and 
dogmatic elements. 

The intellectual culture of the ancient world, even 
at its best, suffered from a fundamental disability and 
weakness. It lacked a solid anchor-hold in concrete 
knowledge. It was pre- scientific. 

The power of rational thought depends upon two 
elements, its method and its data. Without adequate 


data, without experience, consistency and rationality are 
of small avail. The patient investigation of details, 
toilsome inquiry and research, the slow accumulation 
of facts, on the one hand, and the broad judgments of 
generalizing thought, on the other, are unfortunately 
the attributes of two different types of mind. The 
specialist who dwells in a little world of little details 
grows to be satisfied and to take pleasure in those 
minutiae ; one little fact exactly ascertained is the 
prize towards which his mental activities tend ; it 
suffices him, he is not drawn towards broad and new 
horizons, he is not at home in the thinner atmosphere 
of generalizations. The thinker, on the cxther hand, 
chafes at trifles and details ; he who is accustomed to 
fly on the pinions of thought, cannot suffer to be confined 
and crawl among the dust of isolated facts. To number 
the hairs on the appendages of a new species of shrimp, 
is a task belonging to an order of mind distinct from that 
which is drawn towards the great problems of life and 
of the universe ; an inferior, if you will, humdrum, 
myopic, round-shouldered, order of mind. Only when 
the multiplicity of facts and details becomes illuminated 
by a generalizing theory, when each small fact and each 
small detail is transformed into a witness to a great 
and universal significance, do, they acquire value and 
interest to the higher type of intellect. 

In the exultant confidence of its dialectic freedom 
and suppleness, the Greek mind never developed any 
consciousness of the sacredness of observed fact. It 
was abstract. Accuracy of thought meant for it 
accuracy in the operation of discursive reason, logic; 
but it never formed any conception of accuracy in 
the basis of the reasoning process, in the materials 
and data of thought, in ascertained experience. It was 
ready to disport itself in the dialectical 1 game on any 
given theme, on any given premises; but so long as 
those premises were logically defined it did not trouble 
very much as to their intrinsic validity. It had curiosity, 
but not the thirst for hoarding up the coins of knowledge, 
not the preoccupation for submitting their value to 
crucial test. The whole intellect of the Greeks was 


concentrated upon the intellectual process itself, to the 
almost entire neglect of the materials upon which that 
process operates. It navigated adventurously the seas 
of speculation, but with neither com'pass nor loadstar; 
it set out in search of strange lands, but without any 
means of taking its bearings. 

In the whole of classical literature we cannot find 
above two doubtful mentions of anything like a scientific 
experiment; that of Pythagoras on the vibration of 
a cord, and that of Ptolemy on refraction. In his 
encyclopedia on the natural knowledge of his day, Pliny, 
among a host of grotesque hearsays, does not once use 
the word ' experiment * in our sense. In the most 
methodical thinkers of Greece, in Aristotle for instance, 
we meet with the most astounding carelessness in 
matters of easiest verification. He states, for instance, 
that there is only one bone in a lion's neck, that 
man has eight ribs, that men have more teeth than 
women, that men only have a beating heart, that female 
skulls, unlike those of males, have a circular suture, 
that eggs float on sea-water, that if sea-water be 
collected in a wax vessel it becomes drinkable. The 
Greeks, in short, had no science, and no scientific spirit. 
It is science and the scientific spirit which constitutes 
the distinction between the ancient and the modern 

It was, indeed, on the foundation of the few facts 
and methods gathered by Chaldaean and Egyptian 
science that Greek thought first arose; and the early 
Ionian thinkers came nearer to the scientific' spirit than 
almost any Greek in subsequent times. But even with 
them the chief interest lay with the final synthesis, 
the generalization; and, with brilliant divination, they 
used that faculty of inspired guess-work which is one 
of the most valuable instruments of science and its 
crowning triumph, but which has little place in its 
beginnings. Thereafter, the only form 1 of science which 
was at all cultivated by the Greeks' was mathematics, 
which is a form of logic, and in which they were 
interested as logic and * music,' not as an instrument 
of research. Plato would have none but ' mathema- 


ticians ' among his pupils, but the meaning he attached 
to the word may be gauged from his attitude towards 
Archytas and Menacchmus who had devised some sliding- 
rules and compasses as aids to mathematical study. 
' Plato," says Plutarch, " inveighed against them with 
great indignation and persistence as destroying' and 
perverting all the good there is in geometry; for the 
method absconds from incorporeal and intellectual to 
sensible things, and besides employs again such bodies 
as require much vulgar handicraft : in this way 
mechanics was dissimilated and expelled from geometry, 
and, being for a long time looked down upon by 
philosophy, became one of the arts of war." The 
man whom, by the influence which his surviving works 
have exercised, we are accustomed to regard as the 
most scientific genius of the ancient world, Archimedes, 
was of exactly the same opinion asi Plato ; and it was 
only under loud protest that he consented to degrade 
mathematics by putting his knowledge to practical 
application. The Greeks not only ignored the actual 
groundwork of science, experimental research, observa- 
tion, they persistently decried, depreciated it, and 
despised it. Aristophanes ridiculed astronomy and 
geometry. The Athenian Nicias at Syracuse was, when 
there was an eclipse of the moon, as helplessly a prey 
to the soothsayers as the merest savage, although 
Thales and Anaxagoras were acquainted with the 
Babylonian method of predicting eclipses. 

Socrates " brought down philosophy from heaven to 
earth," as the fact was usually expressed. * Why,' 
asked he how constantly do we hear around us the 
argum;ent ! 'Why spend our time and thought in study- 
ing the heavens, in measuring the distances of the 
stars, in fretting; about the constitution of matter, of 
the universe, in studying birds and beasts and trees? 
The thing which it is of importance to us to study is 
life, this human life wherein our business lies; not 
the distant stars, but the human world We live in; not 
animals and insects and plants, but men. Before seeking 
to know about the star's, and shells, and trees, it behoves 
us to seek to know something which lies much closer at 


hand ourselves. The proper study of mankind is 
man.' How wise and sensible that all sounds! And 
how that straightforward common sense has always 
captured the approval of the plain man. And yet it 
is an utter and pernicious fallacy. It is through that 
star-gazing that man has first been placed in a position 
to measure at all his own stature, the proportion and 
significance of his life in the universe. That ' natural 
history/ as it used to be called, that harmless, somewhat 
childish hobby of collecting moth's, of studying* birds 
and trees, of botanizing and bird-nesting 1 , that somewhat 
absurd, trifling pastime has, lo and behold ! developed 
into a science of biology ; and the whole conception, the 
whole significance of man, of his life, of his being, 
of his world has been utterly transfigured. Man went 
about for centuries with TvuOi cravrov on his signet-ring, 
studying himself, studying humanity, pleasantly talking 
and talking round and round in old circles, to no 
purpose. And, behold, the only real knowledge, the 
only illumination, the only revelation which has come 
about himself, has come from that unpractical star- 
gazing and studying of beasts and plants. He thought 
to begin at the beginning by attending to what lay 
closest at hand, his own self ; and he was in reality 
in vain and futile effort trying to begin at the top. He 
could not rightly understand himself at all without first 
trying to understand the world he lived in. Through 
that remote, irrelevant inquiry lay in fact the main 
road to self-knowledge. 

As all their scientific notions had by the roaming 
lonians been derived from 1 Egypt and Chald'sea, so the 
only organized scientific movement in the whole of 
classical antiquity, that of the Ptolemaic University of 
Alexandria, took place on the foundations, under the 
influence, on the very soil of Egypt. .With only one or 
two notable exceptions Alexandrian science occupied 
itself with systematization and compilation rather than 
with original discovery and development of method. 
The first occupant of the chair of mathematics, Euclid, 
did little more than order and gather together the 


scattered geometrical theorems of his Ionian pre- 
decessors, Hipfpocrates of Chios in particular and 
Eudoxos of Cnidos, the friend of the priests of Heliopolis, 
whose mantle the Apis bull had licked. The only 
mechanical device which we actually know to have been 
used by Archimedes, the pupil of Euclid's successor, 
Conon, the Archimedean screw 1 , had been in use on the 
Nile before Greece existed. The greatest systematizer 
of astronomical knowledge was Hipparchos, whose work 
we only know through the clumsy compilation of 
Claudius Ptolemasus, a work full of astrological fancies, 
which perpetuated for centuries the unwieldy methods 
and doctrines of epicycles. Aristarchos of Samos, who 
first suggested the simplification of all astronomy on 
the theory of a central sun and moving earth, could 
not get a hearing. 

It is a notable and striking fact, that Greece and 
Rome, who so completely transformed the world and 
opened up a new universe of civilization, did not produce 
a single practical invention or industrial discovery of 
any importance. Almost all the crafts and industries 
of the ancient world, textile fabrics, dyes, papyrus, 
glass, glazed porcelain, were oriental discoveries and 
remained essentially oriental products. From the early 
days of Babylon and Egypt there is no new material 
discovery of importance to record until the introduction 
of paper, gunpowder, and the mariner's compass into 
Europe by the Arabs. The genius which could create 
a new world of intellect, differing from' that of the 
Orient as noonday from midnight, appeared incapable 
of extending in any way the material powers and 
resources of life. So far as material processes are 
concerned, the Romans excelled the Greeks : they did 
excel in engineering and the building arts, in road- 
making, drainage, mining : the Greeks never got so 
far as making a road or building an aqueduct. The 
practical and realistic Rom'an mind was really more 
disposed towards observation and research than the 
Greek, but it was entirely governed by the influence 
of Greek tradition; and when Csesar wished to reform 
the calendar, mathematicians and astronomers had, to 


be fetched from Egypt. The Grseco-Roman civiliza- 
tion remained pre-scientific. 

Failing that necessary ingredient no real progress 
in the powers of the human intellect beyond a set 
limit was possible .\ A dozen successive Athens could 
not have carried it any further. It could wander this 
way and that way, circle round to its starting-point, 
but it could never establish its advance by any permanent 
occupation of the conquered territory. And it remained,, 
in spite of all the splendid rationalism! of Greece and 
Rome, essentially destitute of any solid protection or 
security against the impinging currents and tides of 
irrationalism. Modern experience has shown time and 
again the insecurity and powerlessness of the most 
brilliant abstract intellectual achievement, until it is 
grounded in the solid basis of demonstration and un- 
shakable evidence. It has become a commonplace of 
science that the true discoverer is not the man who 
formulates but he who substantiates, not the brilliant 
thinker who first glimpses the vision of truth, but the 
humdrum plodder who accumulates such a foundation 
of facts that all the world cannot shake it. 

Besides that fundamental limitation ancient culture was 
inadequately diffused. Although it had no esoteric spirit 
the ruling class did not owe their power to tradition, 
but. to wealth although its circulation was free, the circle 
of men in the Roman Empire who were at all abreast 
of the mental resources of the age, was in reality ex- 
tremely restricted. Even among the wealthy a large 
proportion were new and vulgar rich, idlers, ingcnui, 
self-made men, who cared for none of these things. 
There was no organized provision for general education, 
and no agency, like the printing-press, to make up for 
the deficiency. In a tiny, compact community like 
Athens, every citizen came more or less under the in- 
fluence of existing culture. In the teeming, hetero- 
geneous, shifting population of a vast empire, the case 
was very different. Those swarming masses of humanity 
were not mere herds of crushed oriental slaves, with 
child-like mind patiently slumbering in a twilight of 
tradition ; but, as so many are in our own civilization 


with its infinitely greater opportunities, restless barbarians 
outwardly clothed in a thin veneer of cultural contacts, 
just sufficient to conceal their own ignorance and .bar- 
barism from themselves. Their undisciplined mentality 
weltered in a flood of superstitions and mysticisms, the 
usual disease of minds stimulated by the external in- 
fluences of civilization, yet entirely unequipped and 

Life was complex, accelerated, restless, full of sudden 
changes, full of sorrows, of struggles, of desires stimu- 
lated and thwarted, of disappointments and di illusions. 
To that troubled humanity the religions of the dreaming 
East, offering their substitutes for thought, came as a 
light and a revelation, supplying exactly that for which 
they yearned. The Orient came to their rescue as a 

Rome had fought for her existence in a death struggle 
with the East, and, like Greece, had finally subdued 
it. But the Orient had its revenge ; and it was far more 
glaring and complete than in the case of Greece. The 
same year which was signalized by the definite triumph 
of Rome over Hannibal, saw the advanced guard of 
eastern theocracy established within the walls of Rome, 
called there by the senate itself in compliance with some 
oracle which associated the step with certain vague 
promises of world empire. As the triumphal procession 
of Scipio, the most magnificent hitherto witnessed, with 
its caparisoned elephants and quaint figures of Semitic 
captives, wound its way to the Capitol amid the acclama- 
tions of a people who were henceforth marked as the 
masters of the world, the strange monotonous strains 
of an exotic psalmody might have been heard from a 
chapel on the Palatine, on the site of the old, humble 
Roma Quadrata. The oriental priests who were chant- 
ing those psalms were also members of an army which, 
like that of Rome, was to march from that spot to the 
conquest of the world. 

From that day, amid swarms of Asiatics, astrologers 


from Chaldsea, wonder-workers from Egypt, Hebrew 
cabalists, Persian magicians, Syrian sorcerers, Indian 
fakirs, the Orient poured legion after legion of grave, 
stealthy, tonsured and mitred priests, sent religion after 
religion to take possession of the world-city. 

To the philosophic moralists of Rome, who eschewed 
metaphysics, their ethical convictions, aspirations and 
endeavours needed no external dogmatic or emotional 
support, sought no other religion than ' the divinity 
within their own breast.' The kingdom of God was 
within them. They looked with disgust and abhorrence 
on those barbaric and effeminate superstitions, and strove 
long to put them down and exclude them. But the minds 
of the ignorant and troubled masses, and above all the 
women, found exactly what they thirsted for in the 
mystery of those eastern cults. A marvellous peace 
fell upon them in the extra-mundane atmosphere of the 
dim sanctuaries, sounding with solemn music, now wafted 
as from a distant sphere, now weeping with the tender- 
ness of human sorrow, presently bursting forth into trans- 
figured ecstasis of triumphant hope. The grave rituals, 
the chanted hymns and litanies, the solemn intonation 
of the Mithraic clergy as they called upon the " Lamb 
of God that taketh away the sins of the world," soothed 
their troubled passions as with a delightful balm ; and 
they were thrilled with a strange excitement as the 
tinkling bell of the acolytes announced the culminating 
mystery of the service, and amid clouds of incense, the 
officiating priest turned to the kneeling crowd and raised 
breast-high the sacred chalice filled with the wine of 
life. They were born again to a new life as the cleans- 
ing baptismal waters washed away the stains of misery 
and sin ; and what emotion overwhelmed them when, 
after a stern preparation of fast and penance, they were 
admitted to partake of the sacramental communion, of 
the consecrated bread which was the very body of the 
God ! The women found ineffable comfort in unburden- 
ing their sorrows before the Queen of Heaven who bore 
in her arms her Divine Son, and who seemed to mingle her 
tears with theirs as she mourned over the Dead God. 
The thought of death itself lost its sting for the 


votaries who received the assurance of eternal life from 
the Saviour and Mediator who had triumphed over the 

East and West have not only met again and again, 
they have indissolubly commingled. In the Hellenistic 
Orient of the Macedonian Empire the dawn-myths and 
hieratic rituals of the East and the dialectics and meta- 
physics of Greece had come together,, and brought forth 
strange hybrid chimeras; new religions innumerable, 
countless illuminated and ascetic sects, Essenic and 
Ebionitic, Nazarene and Therapeutrid, swarmed from the 
ancient brewing -vat. And in Antioch and Alexandria all 
the mysticism, occultism, trismegistal philosophumena, 
and abracadabras of Jewry, magic Egypt, and Orphic 
pseudo- Hellas, held their Sabbath of Unreason. Platonism 
had become Plotinism, philosophy theosophy, metaphysics 
gnosis. The Word had become God. 

The Isiac and Serapic cults of Rome were no more 
the religion of ancient Egypt, Mithraism was no more 
the Mazdaeanism of Persia, than Christianity was Judaism. 
Religions interchanged their symbols and rituals, became 
transformed into a new syncretic uniformity more homo- 
geneous than the primitive seasonal rites whence they 
had sprung, and the worshipper passed from shrine to 
shrine as he might from one saint's chapel to the 
adjoining one. 

As once the corrupted fragments of Hellenic thought, 
so likewise the ethical spirit of Rome was absorbed in 
the popular ferments of mysticism, and blended with 
the ascetic fervour of the East. The guilds and brother- 
hoods which were attached to each cult fostered the 
feelings of human fellowship and mutual help. Mithraism 
in particular, owing to its Avestic origin, the simplest 
and therefore the purest of popular cults, addressed 
itself to the poor, the lowly, and disinherited ; the master 
knelt beside his slave in the mysteries, and was not 
infrequently called upon to regard him as his spiritual 
superior. That cult seemed about to absorb and super- 
sede all others, and to become under the imperial 
patronage of Aurelian the official religion of the Roman 


That position was, however, ultimately assumed by a 
cult that became the most luxuriant syncretic product 
of the Hellenistic East, sheltering within the mystic 
shadows of its dense vegetation of rich allusiveness, every 
religious idea and every theosophic thought that the world 
had ever brought forth. It came, like Mithraism, from 
Antioch, but from the Jewish instead of from the Persian 
elements of the eastern metropolis, or, as some think, 
originally from Judaea itself, where the nucleus of its 
ideals had indeed long developed in the monastic com- 
munities of the Essenes and Nazarenes. Hence, as 
formerly the Jews had violently repudiated their spiritual 
debts to Babylon and Persia, it insisted on its exclusive- 
ness, refused to recognize in any way, and even denounced 
its creditors. While, in an even higher degree than 
other cults, it gave voice and emphasis to the reigning 
ethical spirit, and was like them an agape, a religion of 
love, it was unfortunately distinguished from them by 
the darkling taint, the old delirium hebraicum, of uncom- 
promising intolerance. Professor Falta de Gracia goes 
certainly too far when he says that it was " the religion of 
hate " ; but it gave expression to the seething discon- 
tent of human suffering, to the detestation of the intoler- 
able order of the established world, to all the inarticu- 
late forces of hostility against the Roman government ; 
and it was that odium generis humani which gave it 
an immeasurable significance and advantage over all 

The fall of the Roman Empire has ever been the 
grand theme of historical philosophizing. The event 
is generally held to be accounted for by utter- 
ing the word * corruption.' So far as political cor- 
ruption goes, Roman administration was as corrupt in 
the days of Marius, when a petty African chief, Jugurtha, 
bought with gold every envoy and every general that 
was sent to put him down, as at any subsequent time, 
not excepting the fourth and fifth centuries. And as 
for moral corruption, since the primitive, dour austerity 
disappeared in large measure after the second Punic 


War, the society of the Roman Empire was marked, as 
we have just noted, by a continuous development in 
austere morality. The gross, obvious reason why the 
Roman Empire fell is not, as usually stated, that it was 
too big, but that it was too small. It fell because there 
were too many barbarians outside it. Had there 
been no German hordes wanting ' a place in the sun,' 
the Roman Empire, in spite of its many deficiencies 
and inefficiencies, might have continued indefinitely 
which would have been a great calamity. Of course if 
it had remained a huge military organization, stiff with 
swords and military discipline, instead of being a very 
liberal conglomeration of free and self-ruling municipia, 
it might have held off the barbarians ; and its survival 
would have been a still greater calamity. 

The intrinsic cause that doomed and condemned the 
Roman Empire was not any growing corruption, but 
the corruption, the evil, the inadaptation to fact, in 
its very origin and being. No system of human organi- 
zation that is false in its very principle, in its very 
foundation, can save itself by any amount of cleverness 
and efficiency in the means by which that falsehood is 
carried out and maintained, by any amount of super- 
ficial adjustment and tinkering. It is doomed root and 
branch as long as the root remains what it is. The 
Roman Empire was, as we have seen, a device for the 
enrichment of a small class of people by the exploitation 
of mankind. That business enterprise was carried out 
with all the honesty, all the fairness and justice com- 
patible with its very nature, and with admirable judg- 
ment and ability. But all those virtues could not save 
the fundamental falsehood, the fundamental wrong from 
its consequences. Their effects worked inexorably. The 
supply of slaves failed, the supply of soldiers failed, 
the supply of labour failed. And essential fact the 
exploited populations came to feel more and more as 
time went on that the carrying on, the maintenance of 
the whole thing was no business of theirs. They came 
to see, or be vaguely conscious, that they were not in 
the least concerned with that social machine which was 
run not for them, but for the benefit of a small master 


class. In vain official voices were raised to appeal to 
their ' patriotism/ to their duty of helping, and defend- 
ing, and saving ' the State.' Those appeals left them 
perfectly cold and indifferent ; they answered bluntly 
that they felt no patriotism whatever;, that the ' oold 
monster,' the State might look after, itself. They became 
Christians. They made up their own little organizations 
for mutual help and protection, and resistance against 
'the State.' They utterly disowned it and denounced 
it, they refused to serve it; it might go to perdition 
for all they cared, it was no country, no ' patria ' of 
theirs, their kingdom was not of this world. In Gaul in 
the third century the peasants, the colonl, broke out 
into open revolt, into anarchy and plunder, just as they; 
did later at the time of the Jacqueries and of the 
French Revolution. Though partially put down for a 
time by Maximian, the Bagaudce insurrection continued 
till the end. 

When things got most desperate the Roman govern- 
ment had the good fortune to find a strong man of 
extraordinary ability and energy, Diocletian. He set 
to consolidating everything in the most vigorous manner, 
raised the army to four times its strength and reorganized 
it, strengthened the entire network of administration and 
central government and made the latter absolute. His 
aim was to stay all further disintegration by rigidly 
pinning things down with iron bonds in their existing 
state. When a social structure visibly threatens to topple 
over, rulers try to prevent it from falling by prevent- 
ing it from moving. The whole of Roman society was 
fixed in a system of castes ; no one was to change his 
avocation, the son must continue in the calling of his 
father. Sedition, discontent, disloyalty, were dealt with 
with a strong hand. Though partial to many Christian 
religious ideas and counting many personal friends in 
the sect, he even decided to put down Christianity. His 
successor, Constantine, tried the opposite policy, that 
of conciliation and concessions, had the ingenious idea 
to avail himself of the admirable network of Christian 
organization, Christian trade-unions, to assist and 
strengthen the government . 


But evils secularly developed and lying at the very 
root of a social order are not to be remedied at a stroke 
by either vigorous or ingenious political measures. 
Whether vigorously put down or conciliated, the masses 
of exploited population and the municipia remained in- 
different and hostile. When the barbarian flood broke 
through, they not only did not resist, but welcomed them, 
and joined with them. *' The 'powerful decide what the 
poor have to pay. The poor thirst for freedom and 
have to endure extreme servitude," writes Salvianus 
in the fifth century, *' I wonder only that all the poor and 
needy do not run away, except that they are loath to 
abandon their land and families. Should we Romans 
marvel that we cannot resist the Goths, when Roman 
citizens had rather live with them than with us? The 
Romans in the Gothic kingdom are so attached to the 
Roman government that they prefer to remain poor under 
the Goths, to being well-off among the Romans and 
bear the heavy burdens of taxation." With unfailing! 
instinct, the clergy saw in the wild Barbarians a better 
promise of power and influence for the Church than in 
the officially converted Roman Empire which, in spite 
of Constantine and Theodosius, remained ' the Beast/ 
the enemy. They accordingly smiled on the invader, 
encouraged him, flattered him. The Roman clergy 
were undisguisedly pro -German. They resolutely, 
winked at, and minimized any 'atrocities.' Had there 
been a massacre? Well, men had to die sooner; or 
later. And when Alaric put Rome to the sack, looting, 
burning, and ravishing, St. Augustine employed himself 
in composing a dissertation on the question whether or 
no the outraged virgins would be entitled to the crown 
of maidenhood in the next world. 




have so far seen three broadly, distinguished stages 
mark the course of human evolution. First the long, 
primitive tribal stage in which custom-thought ruled 
absolute, broken only now and again, and only to be 
renewed with but slightly weakened force, by material 
discoveries and the clash of cultures. To that original 
phase succeeded that of the great oriental civilizations 
wholly dominated by theocratic power- thought whose 
absolutism is only occasionally and ineffectually challenged 
by military power, and which, owing to its greater subtlety 
of direction and elasticity of interpretation, virtually 
nullifies the disruptive effects of cross-fertilization. 
Thirdly comes the extraordinarily felicitous accident of 
Greece, which at a blow almost completely liberates the 
human mind from custom- and power-thought, and raises 
it to undreamed-of heights of power and unfettered 
efficiency. But while it utilizes all the available data 
of rational thought, ,it contributes little to their increase, 
and its poverty in that respect cripples the power which 
it derives from freedom. iThe world contains as yet too 
much barbarism and too much orientalism' ; and the 
Graeco-Roman phase of civilization succumbs at last to 
a gigantic tide of those elements which submerge and 
overwhelm it. It is eventually succeeded by a fourth 
phase, the one in which we live. 

That phase is sharply separated from the foregoing one 
by the tremendous cataclysm out of which it arose. 
It is largely owing to that circumstance that the process 
of human progress, when estimated by the narrow parallax 
of our ordinary historic purview, is not obviously and 
indisputably recognizable. That short space of time is 



divided in its very middle by the cataclysm which swept 
away all previous achievements. Hence the whole curve 
is broken and disguised. Under totally new conditions, 
with new materials,"; a new development took place. 
Throughout the greater part of it a glaring contrast 
was presented between the painful struggles towards re- 
construction of a world steeped in barbarism 1 , and over- 
whelmed by a thousand rude and tyrannous elements, 
and the lucid splendour of that civilization which lay in 
the dust. Men looked to the past, for help, example, 
inspiration ; they quite rightly and justly regarded them- 
selves as the pupils of 'the ancients/ and quite justly 
looked upon these as their superiors. 

Yet eventually all foregoing phases of civilization have 
been wholly transcended, and the powers and potentialities 
of the human race magnified beyond estimation, 
by the civilization which has arisen out of that melting- 
pot of utter ruin and destruction into which every form 
and every deformity of human power had been cast. 
It is quite impossible to estimate rightly and judge at all 
adequately the farces whose struggles and interaction 
we see before us, unless our modern civilization is viewed 
in its true place in the perspective of history ; unless we 
know in their origin and development the character of 
those forces, which have been brought together in the 
phase of civilization which at the present day is struggling; 
through the crisis of its development. But, although to 
the modern European the genesis of the civilization in 
which he lives may, of all phases of historical evolution 
be deemed foremost in importance, so thoroughly have 
traditional misconceptions and persistent misrepresentation 
falsified his notions on that point, that they are only a 
few degrees removed from the dim and fabulous concep- 
tions which the Greeks and the Romans entertained 
concerning their own origins. 

Although the Graeco-Roman world did not sink under 
a catastrophic blow, such as wiped out Babylon or 
Susa, Asshur or Ecbatana, and wreathed the sand- 
drifts of the desert over their graves ; although its 


downfall was a process of transitional, though rapid, 
disintegration rather than a sudden and violent cataclysm ; 
although the contemporaries of Alaric and of Romulus 
Augustulus were scarcely aware of what was happening, 
that a world was dropping into chaos yet no civilization 
ever suffered more complete obliteration. It is the most 
appalling catastrophe in history. Human civilization, 
seemingly powerful and securely established, embracing 
the known world in one large organized, peaceful, pros- 
perous society was completely blotted out. All that 
humanity had achieved seemed to be swept away and set 
at nought. Athens and Rome had raised mankind to 
a new plane ; they had set it higher above the old 
civilizations of the East than the troglodyte of pre- 
history was above the ape : they had created a truly 
human world, mature and conscious. And now of all 
that growth, of all that glorious evolution, practically 
nothing was left. The hands of the clock had sprung back 
to darkness and savagery. 

The depth of that ruin is not generally realized in 
its full horror. The records of the period are eked out 
with the names of barbarian chiefs and their wars, and 
do not dwell on the picture of the existing world. By an 
optical illusion the light that shines before and after 
tends to diffuse over the dark gap. From the fifth to 
the tenth century Europe lay, sunk in a night of barbarism 
which grew darker and darker. It was a barbarism 
far more awful and horrible than ,that of the primitive 
savage, for it was the decomposing body of what had 
been a great civilization. The features and impress 
of that civilization were all but completely effaced. 
Where its development had been fullest, in Italy and in 
Gaul, all was ruin, squalor, desolation. The land had 
dropped out of cultivation-; trees and shrubs rapidly 
encroached upon the once cultivated land, rivers over- 
flowed their broken and neglected banks ; the forest 
and the malarial swamp regained their sway, over vast 
tracts of country which had been (covered with prosperous 
farms and waving fields. The word \eremus, wilderness, 
recurs with significant frequency in mediaeval land charts. 
Cities had practically, disappeared. Where there is no 


trade there can be no cities. N They; were pulled down and 
used as quarries, and only the central part walled in 
when a bishop or a baron established himself there who 
could afford some protection. In Nimes, for instance, 
the remains of the population dwelled 'in huts built among 
the ruins of the amphitheatre. Others Were completely 
abandoned. Mantua Was submerged by stagnant waters 
and deserted. The Germans who regarded 'walled cities 
as a badge of servitude, hastened to pull them down. Of 
all the prosperous cities built by the Romans on the 
banks of the Rhine not one remained in the ninth century. 
The ruins and the scattered settlements were visited by 
herds of prowling wolves, boars, and even by bears . The 
atria of the Roman villas, when not converted into 
cloisters, were filled in with hovels and dunghills, the 
surrounding living-rooms serving as quarries and ram- 
parts. Clad in the skins of beasts and in coarse, sack- 
shaped woollen garments, the enormously reduced popu- 
lation lived in thatched wooden huts, huddled for 
protection at the foot of the barons' lairs, or round 
monasteries. Every such little group manufactured its 
own materials and clothing, and supported its miserable 
existence by scanty cultivation of small patches of ground 
round their hovels. They did not dare to go further 
afield for fear of wild beasts and of marauders. Famines 
and plagues were chronic ; there were ten devastating 
famines and thirteen plagues in the course of the tenth 
century alone. Cases of cannibalism' were not uncommon ; 
there were man-hunts, not with a View to plunder, but 
for food ; it is on record that at Tournus, on the Sa6ne, 
human flesh was publicly put up for sale. It was im- 
possible to venture abroad without a strong armed escort ; 
robber bands roamed everywhere. Water traffic was put a 
stop to by the practice of wrecking, which was actually 
encouraged by. charters. Anarchy was absolute 'and un- 
checked ; there was no law but the arbitrary will of 
the barons and their men-at-arms ; none had power to 
check them. They lived in their towers in rush- strewn 
halls, which frequently served also as stables for their 
horses. They had no other occupation but brigandage, 
private wars, and riot. 


Because out of that abyss of darkness and desolation 
civilization did ultimately emerge anew > "the fact is 
generally accepted \vith careless indifference as if it were 
quite natural and inevitable. It used to be in the popular 
conception of history held tc* be sufficiently accounted 
for by a reference to the ' Renaissance ' and the restora- 
tion of classical literature after the fall of Constantinople . 
Obviously a mere begging of the question ; for there is 
little to be explained in the fact that the Europe which 
had already produced Dante should proceed to bring 
forth Messer Petrarca and an Italian Renaissance. It 
has gradually become more clearly recognized that it 
was in the period between the end of the tenth and that 
of the twelfth century that Europe emerged out of the 
night. The old misconception and confusion is per- 
petuated by our current historical rubrics, which include 
both that period and the Dark Ages under the term 
' Middle Ages/ and apply the name of ' Renaissance ' 
to the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, whose culture 
was but the ripe fruit of antecedent growth, a fruit 
not only ripe, but in many respects rotten. That civili- 
zation should have grown at all out of the troglodytic 
Europe of the ninth century, far from being quite natural, 
is a very remarkable fact. 

The various Germanic hordes that trod down the 
ancient civilization brought with them no qualities that 
could help to build a new one. The panegyrical twaddle 
that pervades all our histories about '' the young, virile 
Teutonic races regenerating the effete and decrepit 
Roman world," is a brazen effrontery of racial-historical 
mendacity of the same order as the bestowing of the 
benefits of Teutonic * Kultur ' by Prussian Junkerdom. 

The cultural condition of the primitive tribal state is, 
as we have already noted, rigorously precluded from 
advancing beyond a definite limit. Only in exceptionally 
favourable circumstances, as happened in the case of 
Greece suckled at the many breasts of oriental cultures, 
can tribal society become an agency, -of progress. 

The barbaric tribes of Europe were, save for possession 


of metals, in much the same state as the Maoris when 
first visited by Captain Cook. They lived in wooden huts 
in swamps and forest glades. They possessed a few 
household crafts, very little agriculture, and native poetry, 
which is always of considerable merit among savages. 
For the rest they were drunken, murderous, treacherous, 
licentious brutes. Their savagery was of a particularly 
base and bestial type. To libel them is not possible, to 
sound the full measure of their infamy is revolting. 
Gluttonous, riotous orgies, to shout, heated with strong 
drink, was their ideal of enjoyment. , Slaughter, cruelty, 
obscene violence, were the natural outlets of their 
energies. In mind they were sluggish and heavy gens 
nee astuta nee callida (Tac. xxii.)- When not em- 
ployed with bloodshed, food, and drink, they would sit 
for days warming themselves at their fires, and making 
their women work for them. 

The barbaric courts were, one and all, scenes of per- 
petual murders, parricides, fratricides, poisonings, per- 
juries, bestiality, and whoredom. "It would not be easy 
within the same historical space to find more vice and 
less virtue," is Gibbon's comment, and he was not by any 
means emancipated from the fable of barbaric virtues. 
There are indeed no more utterly sickening pages in 
human annals than the tale of unredeemed abominations, 
the exploits of Clothaire, Chilperic, Fredegonde, recorded 
with such inimitable unction by St. Gregory of Tours. 
Procopius, the Byzantine historian of the Goths, shows 
more delicacy ; he refuses to soil his pages with the 
horrors exhibited by those savages, " lest I should trans- 
mit to succeeding ages a monument and example of 

Clovis obtains the Ripuarian kingdom by inducing 1 
the king's son to murder his father, and by afterwards 
cracking his skull. His progress is indeed rather 
monotonously marked by an habitual breaking of skulls, 
often by way of argument or facetious repartee, but 
generally those of rivals decoyed to his court under 
treacherous safe- conducts. As St. Gregory charmingly 
remarks, " Thus did God every day fell down some one of 
his enemies by his hand, and extend the confines of 


his realm, because he walked with an upright heart 
before the Lord and did what was acceptable in His eyes." 
Charlemagne's son Louis the Pious tears out the eyes of 
liis brother Pepin's son, drawn to his court under safe- 
conduct. Louis's son, Lothair, vents his jealousy of his 
half-brother by seizing the little daughter of his guardian 
from a convent, fastening her up in a cask and throwing 
her into the river. The Lombard court of the drunken 
Alboin, assassinated by his wife Rosmunda, whom he 
had compelled to drink out of her murdered father's 
skull, and who afterwards married her accomplice, and 
in turn murdered him, presents the same vile spectacle 
as the Prankish court. In Burgundy the king, Gundebald, 
consolidated his throne by killing his three brothers. 
Theodoric himself, who represented more creditably than 
any other barbarian the effect of a Roman education, 
broke out after a time, as imperfectly tamed wild animals 
are apt to do, into primal ferocity. Each of the Gothic 
kings who succeeded him murdered his predecessor. 

If any of the Teutonic chieftains rose at all above 
the lowest barbaric level, it was owing to special con- 
tact with Grasco -Roman civilization : Alaric, Odoacre, 
Theodoric, had been brought up in the Roman legions . 

But no barbarians have ever proved themselves more 
refractory to all civilizing influences than the ' virile 
Teutons.' Instead of absorbing anything of the civili- 
zation which they overthrew, they became, with the means 
and opportunities of indulgence, considerably more brutal 
than they were before. They regarded their conquests 
as occasions for sottish riot and bestial tyranny. When 
they became Christianized they converted the monasteries 
into Walhallas of drunken orgy. The appalling con- 
dition of the Church and monasteries in the eighth, 
ninth, and tenth centuries was not due to the corruption 
of the Roman clergy so much as to the influx of barbarian 
priests and monks. The convents resounded with' riot 
through the night. Capitularies of the Carolingian 
period enact among other rules that " priests shall 
not have more than one wife," they lay down 
detailed regulations concerning incest, they forbid 
monks to spend their time in taverns, and ordain 


that "on no account shall an abbot gouge out the 
eyes of his monks or mutilate them, whatever 
fault they may have committed." l Legislation testifies 
to the universal prevalence of female drunkenness ; and 
St. Boniface complains that, under pretext of pilgrimages, 
a trail of Teutonic prostitutes was left over every part 
of Europe. 2 Regarding as they did physical strength 
and combative qualities as the supreme human virtues, 
the contempt of the barbarian invaders for the pacific 
population knew no bounds. They ascribed that " ignoble 
effeminacy " to culture and education, and consequently 
refused to allow their children to be educated, " for edu- 
cation tends to corrupt, enervate and depress the mind. "3 

The fabric of the Roman Empire had left one great 
representative. Europe owes a perennial debt to the 
Christian Church ; it constituted a bond which united 
the congery of kingdoms and domains into which the 
world had been broken up, into the theoretical body of 
Christendom. Hence the development of our civilization 
has not been Italian, or French, or German, but European. 
The language of Rome, some relics and traditions of her 
administrative order and ideas, were part of the uniting 
bond preserved in the Roman Church. 

The civilizing influence which the Church thus 
exercised, was chiefly owing to its position as the repre- 
sentative of Roman civilization, as imposing the tradi- 
tion, the associations, the ideas, the language, the general 
atmosphere of the latter, with the particular insistence, 
privilege and authority of a proselytizing creed. It 
played the part of a civilizing agent, not because it was 
Christian, but because it was Roman. The religion of 
Rome, untouched in its self-assertive dignity and claims 
by the vicissitudes of the em'pire, was all that stood 
for the glamour of the Roman name ; and the barbarian 
could without derogation become a citizen of that new 
Rome while he trod the remains of Roman power 

1 Baluzii Capit. Reg. Franc. Cap. Metense. 
3 Epist. Ixxviii, ap. Mon. Germ. Hist. 
3 Procop. De Bell Goth. I, 4. 


under his heel. He was disposed to accept the Roman 
religion chiefly because of its association with the 
prestige, the dignity and grandeur which the name of 
Rome possessed even for its bitterest enemy ; very much 
in the same way as the savage of to-day is willing to 
listen to the missionary, not on account of any meta- 
physical or ethical persuasiveness in the latter's creed, 
but because he is the representative of the magical 
power of European civilization. The barbarian felt 
flattered by adopting the creed of the Roman man, 
as the savage feels flattered by adopting 1 the creed of 
the white man. It was Perikles and Plato, Heracleitos 
and Aristotle, Cato, Caesar, and Trajan, the hard rational 
thought of Hellas, the shrewd ability of Rome, not Paul 
or Athanasius, that converted the barbarian to Christ- 
ianity. The words * Roman ' and ' Christian ' were 
during the early Middle Ages used as synonym's. 

Priests alone could read and some could write. 
Kings and rulers affixed to the various charters which 
they enacted " signum crucis manu propria pro ignora- 
tione liter arum" Hence we still speak of ' signing ' 
instead of ' subscribing.' The word ' clerk ' denoted 
indifferently a priest or a person able to read. But 
not even all the clergy could write;, there were many 
bishops who were unable to sign their names to the 
canons of the councils on which they sat. One of the 
questions put to persons who were candidates for orders 
was " whether they could read the gospels and epistles 
and explain the sense of these, at least literally." 
King Alfred complained that there was not a priest 
from the Humber to the sea who understood the 
liturgy in his mother-tongue, or could translate the 
easiest piece of Latin. 

The glimmer of literacy in the monasteries isolated 
in woods and on the crags of savage lands did not, 
in general, go beyond those elementary attainments. 
According to Benvenuto da Imola, grass grew in most 
of the libraries and the literary activities of the monks 
mostly consisted ini scraping away the literatures of 
Greece and Rome to rnake room, for the legends of the 


saints. Of lay books there existed the manuals of 
Boethius and Cassiodorus ; few Roman authors appear 
ever to have been read besides Vergil, Terence and 
Plautus. The wretched so-called schools established 
by Charlemagne, of which such grossly exaggerated 
fuss is made in all our histories, represented an 
ineffectual attempt to manufacture more priests, and 
to produce priests that should at least be able to read 
and write. They only existed for a day, and offered a 
curriculum of which a dame's infant school would be 
ashamed. The * palatine academy * never existed at 
all except in the imagination of historians; of con- 
temporary evidence there is no{ a trace. We are liable 
to be greatly impressed When we read that * schools ' 
were established, and that the ' seven arts,' that mathe- 
matics, astronomy among other things were taught. 
The impression is utterly misleading. Here, for 
instance, is an account of the ' founding of a school.' 
Charlemagne ordered the abbot of Fontenelle, one 
Gervold, to open a school in his monastery. He 
obeyed : he opened a school in which singing only 
was taught, for " although he knew not overmuch any 
other art, he was proficient in ]the art of singing* and 
was not deficient in pleasantness and power of voice." l 
Alcuin of York, the organizer of those precious 
Carolingian schools, proclaimed " the most learned 
man of his time," " whom no one in that age 
excelled in learning," thus instructs his pupils in 
grammar and rhetoric : he tells them to be careful 
to distinguish between vellus and bell us, vel and 
fel, quod and quot, and imparts to them the infor- 
mation that hippvcrita is derived from hippo, falsum 
and chrisis, indicium. His * mathematics ' did not 
extend beyond a laborious and uncertain use of the rule 
of three. Here is a fair and representative specimen of 
it. " An accurate acquaintance with numbers teaches 
us that some are even, others uneven; that of the 
even numbers, some are perfect, others imperfect; and 
further, that of the imperfect numbers, some are greater, 
others less. . . . Take, for example, the number VI ; 
* Qhron. FontanelL ad a. 


the half of VI is III, the third is II, and the sixth part 
I. The perfect Creator, therefore, who made all things 
very good, created the world in six days in order 
to show that everything that he had formed was perfect 
of its kind. . . . When the human race after the flood 
replenished the earth, they originated front the number 
VII T; . .. . thus indicating that the second race is less 
perfect than the first, which had been created in the 
number VI. . . . The sixty queens and eighty concu- 
bines (mentioned in the Song of Solomon) are the mem-- 
bers of the Holy Church," etc., etc. Even the study 
of theology to which all other ' learning ' was strictly, 
subordinate must not suggest to us any subtle dialectical 
exercises; by theology was meant purely and simply 
the capacity to quote from Holy Wirit and from the 
Fathers ; the authority of a text was the sole conceivable 
form of argument. Of such kind was the learning 
which, we are told, survived and was preserved in 
the monasteries. ; 

But if bare literacy existed in the Church only, it 
was also the dead weight of its influence which paralysed 
intellect and culture. It is difficult for us to realize 
the effect of that incubus in that age, the com'pleteness 
with which it succeeded in snuffing out the human mind. 
Not only was religious dogma, the thought of hell-fire, 
an exclusive, constant, daily obsession; but any distrac- 
tion of the attention, any deviation of the mental gaze 
from that one object of hypnotic contemplation,, any 
other interest, was denounced as in itself a deadly 
impiety. The Church, it is important to observe, Was 
not then opposed to knowledge on the ground that 
it was * dangerous,* that it imperilled the faith. That 
view was a fruit of later experience. In the primitive 
simplicity of dogmatic confidence the thought hardly 
occurred that any knowledge could be dangerous, 
could conflict with holy truth. Knowledge might, on 
the contrary, be plausibly valued as an adornment of 
the Church, as enhancing the dignity of; its office, as 
contributing to the greater glory of the faith. And 
that notion did exist in some minds; monks like the 


Benedictines cultivated what knowledge they could, 
regarding it as a tribute to religion, as its natural 
appanage. But that notion Was in general vigorously 
denounced and repressed. Secular reading was con- 
demned not as an occupation dangerous to religion, but 
as an occupation other than religion. It was an imper- 
missible withdrawal of the mind from its one legitimate 
cynosure. The attitude of the Christian mind towards 
culture was that of St. Jerome who, though naturally 
devoted to literature, renounced it utterly by an act of 
self-discipline, as if casting off a tentptation of Satan, 
as if purging himself from a state of sin. Alcuin 
systematically discouraged secular study. In a letter 
to a former pupil that egregious educator takes him 
to task for reading Vergil; ** the four Gospels," he 
says, " not the twelve VEneads (sic), should fill your 
mind." The same attitude is found throughout the 
Dark Ages. At a much later date Edmund Rich, 
one of the founders of Oxford, while studying mathe- 
matical diagrams has a vision of his mother, who draws 
three interlaced circles representing the Trinity ; ** Be 
these," she bids him, M henceforth thy diagrams." Pope 
Gregory burnt all the works of Livy and of Cicero on 
which he could lay his hands. The rumour having 
reached him that Bishop Desiderius of Vienne had read 
some discourse on a literary subject, he writes to him 
with some embarrassment : ** A fact has come to our 
ears which we cannot mention without a blush, that 
you, my brother, lecture on literature. I hope to hear 
that you are not really interested, in such rubbish 
nugis et seculartbus literis" Even attention to the 
study of civil law was as late as the twelfth 1 century 
violently denounced by St. Bernard, who bewails that 
the courts are busy with the laws of Justinian the 
pandects of Amalfi had just been discovered instead of 
confining themselves to the laws of God. 

There was among the chief men of those times some 
sense of the terrible wreck and ruin of things. The 
vision, the memory of Rome and her civilized wo.rld, 


was too great and too near not to remain present 
before their eyes and impress them with a strong sense 
of the existing degradation. Modern historians of the 
Dark Ages employ themselves with describing the succes- 
sive efforts that were made by barbaric rulers to intro- 
duce some rudiments of order into the weltering 1 chaos. 
Theodoric did all he could, had laws codified, endeavoured 
to establish some kind of administration ; the Lombards, 
the Burgundians likewise got codes written down, 
appointed officials, issued edicts. Charlemagne, the 
pious barbarian fighting missionary who converted his 
fellow-barbarians to Christianity by fire and sword, 
and out of whom ecclesiastical gratitude has manu- 
factured a legendary hero and great man, tried in 
co-operation with the Roman Church to construct a 
Christian Holy Roman Empire. Various chieftains after 
him carved out little kingdoms,, each making desperate 
efforts at organization, law, administration. 

But one net result stands out of the recital of those 
various political enterprises. They are all utterly futile. 
The laws, organizations,; constitutions, as we should' 
say, existed merely on parchment. States, kingdoms, 
Holy Empires, are brought into existence at the point 
of the sword, and with papal blessings, but they are 
mere card castles, that come tumbling down as fast as 
they are set up. Mfe may gauge the real value of the 
well-meaning efforts of Charlemagne, which are repre-. 
sented in detailed accounts as a reorganization of the 
world, a * renaissance,' by the fact that the moment 
he is laid in the crypt of Aachen, not a trace is to 
be found of it all. Under all those fictitious official 
titles and codes, those political shufflings which help 
to fill the chronicle, the actual facts of human society 
remain unaltered, they run their sweet course utterly 
unaffected and unchanged : brigand chiefs warring 
and plundering, murders and outrages, decimated 
populations of miserable wretches clustering round for 
protection. , 

The truth is that you cannot make laws, or organize, 
or do anything with masses of humanity if culture is 
non-existent. You may go on devising parchment laws 


and kingdoms, and appointing officials with pompous 
titles, and signing deeds and edicts till doomsday; if 
humanity is in a condition of illiterate barbarism, is 
intellectually destitute, all your politics and organizing 
and legislating are vain beating of the air. ^Vie shall 
have occasion later to note that no liberating movement 
can originate from! the people themselves unless they 
are intellectually prepared for it. The reverse is equally 
true ; no reform, no organization, no progress can be 
imposed on them by well-meaning rulers, if the people 
are not culturally in a condition to receive it. Neither 
from above nor from below can civilization be implanted 
upon barbarism destitute of intellectual culture. 

^Without intellectual light of some kind in either 
people or rulers it was impossible to create a new 
Europe. No extant elements derived either from the 
rigid conservative structure of the Roman Empire or 
from a dogmatic Church could give rise to a progressive 
civilization in the Europe of the Dark Ages, any more 
than did those same elements iri the empire of 

Among all the kingdoms of time Byzantium stands 
a unique, strange, uncanny, half-understood figure of 
warning, like a gorgeously decked skeleton at the feast 
of life. Upon her as on no other empire fortune seemed 
to have showered every favour and every advantage. 
Set in a site of unparalleled vantage, the cynosure of 
every empire-builder from the remotest time to the 
present day, it survived all but unscathed amid the 
ruin which all around it submerged the world. Wihile 
Western Europe sank in headlong dissolution, it endured 
to all outer seeming an opulent, prosperous, dazzling 
civilization. The pomp, the wealth, the flashing 
opulence, the stately ceremonial of its gorgeous court; 
its basileus, resplendent under the jewelled shower of 
the dalmatic, receiving in the Magnaura, more like a 
vision of a superhuman being; th&n a man, the homage 


of prostrate princes, amid the smoke of incense, the 
blaze of hanging candelabra, the rustle of gold fronds, 
and the peals of the silver organs, surrounded fby 
hierarchies of patricians and protospatharians, by the 
scholaric guards in their silver breast-plates, and 
excubitors with their golden shields; the maze of 
its Sacred Palaces, with their ivory doors, rising in 
tiers of splendour on the erichanted shore whence, from 
marble terraces, the eye roamed, over a panorama of 
unmatched loveliness, the Marmora and the Prinkipo 
islands, the waving hills, covered with groves and 
gardens, with palaces and villas, the Palace of Fountains, 
Chrysopolis on the Asiatic shore, and Bryas where stood 
a replica of the Kasr at-Taj of Baghdad, Blachernae on 
the Golden Horn, the private imperial harbour of 
Boukoleon, where scarlet -and -gold dromons rode at 
anchor; the glint of the polychromatic churches, their 
clusters of airy domes, M hung as if tty a golden chain 
from heaven"; the Hippodrome decked with the obe- 
lisks of Thebes, the tripods of Delphi, and the statues 
of Praxiteles offered a spectacle! of dreamland 
fastuousness never perhaps excelled, and which needed 
not to be contrasted with the squalor 4 and desolation 
of the barbarous West. Byzantiuiri "was the natural 
emporium of the world's trade; its industries were 
flourishing; its dominions extended over the richest 
provinces of Asia; : it controlled the granaries and 
timber-yards of the world; it possessed the only 
disciplined and scientifically trained armies; their, 
officers carried the tactical manuals of Maurice and Leo 
the ^Wise in their haversacks ; they were equipped with the 
equivalent of an artillery, the dreaded Grecian fire 
some kind of flammenwerfer, of which" they shad the 
secret. iWJiile all the rest of Christendom! were brutal 
savages, the princes and citizens of the Eastern Empire 
were marked by courtliness and polished manners, refine-^ 
ment in their tastes and mode of life. Byzantine culture 
was the sole heir and repository of the Greek and 
Hellenistic world;: it produced scholars, poets, mathe- 
maticians. Notwithstanding its luxurious opulence 
its court was, with singularly few exceptions and brief 


outbreaks, exceptionally free from] vice, corruption and 
crime. It was, on the whole, a decent, orderly,, 
well-behaved, well-intentioned society. Its elaborately 
organized administration, the representative of Roman 
law, worked smoothly. Its rulers were generally just, 
generally patriotic, careful of public welfare, con- 
scientious to a scruple. How many rulers has the 
world since seen setting themselves to write army 
manuals, or compendiums of law like Basil I, or an 
account of their dominions, or a treatise on diplomacy 
and the administration of the empire like Constantino 
Porphyrogenitus? They invariably led their armies in 
person, they were their own finance ministers, personally 
attended to the administration of the treasury, and never 
once allowed the coinage to become debased. 

Thus during ten long centuries the Byzantine Empire 
stood, the guardian of culture, the ark of civilization, 
while the Christian world around it crumbled to 
primordial anarchy and rose again to life. It would 
not be possible to set forth conditions in appearance 
more favourable to the development of a great, glorious 
and mighty human society, the leader of progress, the 
guide of civilization, the light of the world. 

And yet that civilization, the pampered favourite of 
fortune, has remained before the considered judgment 
of history, in spite of the attempts of some Byzantophiles 
to rehabilitate it, what it was to its contemporaries 
an object of contempt. So insignificant that almost 
one is apt to overlook and ignore it in a purview of 
the development of humanity. It has contributed 
nothing to human growth; it lies outside the stream of 
mankind's evolution, a relic, a mummified survival, a 
failure. In those thousand years of existence it did 
not exhibit a spark of progress, scarcely of life. 
Surrounded by populations struggling out of darkness 
and calling for rescue and redemption, it taught them 
nothing, and it learnt nothing. Its fleets were swept 
off the seas by the Arabs; its commerce was captured, 
first by the Arabs, then by the Catalans, Genoese and 
Venetians ; its army, though it did save the empire 
again and again, ultimately came to be despised both' 



by Frank and Saracen; its literature was puerile, a 
model of bad taste, of nauseous, euphuistic pseudo- 
mythologizing rubbish, an4 grotesque miracle tales; it 
remains unreadable, save for the fable-distorted records 
of its self-contemplating history; its few scholars- 
there were not many such as Leo the Grammarian, 
Photius, were the merest compilers, scholiasts, and 
pedants; the only works of any utility which they have 
left us are the catalogues of the libraries they knew 
not how to use, and the dictionary of Suidas. In the 
bountiful prodigality of the advantages Which it enjoyed 
and in their utter futility, the Byzantine Empire offers, 
as; I said, a spectacle unique in history. 

If we inquire into the causes of the phenomenal 
sterility we find that they fall mainly under three heads. 
First, the real power of the Byzantine Empire was wielded 
by a host of ignorant and fanatical monks. They 
swarmed throughout every province and every town. 
In Constantinople whole districts Were filled with rows 
of monasteries; there were over, a hundred; that of 
Stoudion alone contained a thousand monks. Mount 
Athos, Mount Ida, Olympus, the islands of the Marmora 
and the Archipelago, were covered with conglomera- 
tions of monasteries. You could not go ten steps without 
meeting those long'-haired, short -skirted, Rasputin-like 
figures, round whom the people crowded to kiss their 
hands. Every noble, every merchant, every man of 
wealth, every pious lady, either founded or endowed 
a monastery. The Emperor Nicopheros, though himself 
leading the life of a monk, wearing a hair-shirt and 
sleeping on bare boards, was so alarmed at the depopula- 
tion of the empire, at the flow of its wealth into the 
monasteries, at the consequent recruiting and fiscal 
difficulties, that he attempted to check the evil by 
legislation. The long contest over the Images which 
appears to us so paltry, was but a vain struggle of the 
em'perors to shake themselves free of the intolerable 
domination of the monks. They exercised complete 
control over the minds of the people, of the women, of 
the nobility; they fed them with Wonder-tales and 
miracles, and lives of saints. Theology and even hell 


had little place in their doctrines ; every event, every 
action was surrounded with a web of supernatural signs 
and portents ; the Byzantine Greeks lived in a world 
peopled with goblins, ghosts, angels and demons. The 
supreme objects of their worship were miracle-working, 
winking images of saints, most of them painted by 
supernatural agencies, before which the crowds kissed 
the pavements of the churches, and to which they had 
resort for help in every circumstance of life, for success 
in business enterprises, the finding of lost property, the 
cure of rheumatism. Strong in the fanatical backing of 
the populace and of the women, the monks set the 
civil authority completely at defiance, bearded the 
emperor in his palace, in the open street, whenever 
they disapproved of his acts. 

Secondly, that empire in spite of its priceless position 
of vantage was effectually and very completely isolated 
from the rest of the world by artificial barriers. For 
the Latin and Germanic Christians the Greeks had 
the most utter contempt; they regarded them not, 
it must be admitted, without ample justification as 
mere savage barbarians. The self-styled Emperor of 
the Holy Roman Empire was in their eyes an absurd 
upstart accoutred in a title which made them laugh'. 
He appeared to them much in the same light as we 
should regard a nigger Emperor of Dahomey aping 
civilized man in a frock coat and silk hat. The term 
' foreigner ' had for the Greek the same connotation 
of unbounded contempt and hatred as it had for the 
true-born Englishman. Those sentiments were accen- 
tuated when the crusading rabbles came and foisted 
themselves upon the empire, and their boorish, swash- 
buckling chieftains came tramping round the imperial 
palaces in their ill-cut clothes, clapping the emperor 
on the back, plumping themselves down on his throne, 
like bulls in the stately china-shops of Byzantine etiquette 
and decorum. On the other hand that hatred and 
contempt were thoroughly reciprocated. The fact that 
a vast portion of Christendom^ the wealthiest, the most 
outwardly brilliant remained obstinately, in spite of all 
efforts, completely outside the power of the Roman see, 


refusing to recognize it or acknowledge its authority in 
any form, was the bitterest pill which the pride, 
ambition and greed of the papacy had to swallow. 
The hardened and recalcitrant ' schismatics ' were, as 
usually happens, regarded with more ardent hatred 
than even the ''pagan infidels.' Detraction of them 
was inculcated everywhere by the spiritual guides of 
Europe. The Latins and Germans looked upon the 
' effeminate ' ' Griffins ' with as much contempt as these 
did upon the western savages. The latter constantly 
accused them, mostly quite unjustly it was at best a 
case of pot and kettle of perfidious treachery. Like 
our own rough soldiers in the Gallipoli expedition, while 
they recognized, whenever they came into direct contact 
with him, the Muslim asj an honourable foe, and could 
not but be impressed with his well-nigh quixotic chivalry, 
they scorned the Greek as a base, sneaking fellow 1 . 
The splendour, the wealth, the dazzling luxury, the 
civilization of Byzantium, excited in them not admiration 
and emulation, but only covetousness and cupidity. 
They 'were always in two minds whether to redeem the 
Holy Land or fall upon the Greek Empire and loot it, 
as in the fourth Crusade they ultimately did. Thus 
Byzantine civilization was as effectually insulated by a 
barrier of mutual contempt and hatred, as by any China 
wall or silver streak. 

It lived and this is the third aspect of its sterility 
draped in the pride of its origin and exclusiveness. 
The heterogeneous medley of all races Which con- 
stituted its ruling classes were ' the Romans ' for they 
despised the name of Greek their empire was ' the 
Roman Empire ' ; they alone had culture, gt>od 
government, true religion an exclusively national church 
far superior to the so-called Christianity of benighted 
foreigners, and owing no humiliating allegiance to any 
Italian bishop. Nothing called for change in that 
highly desirable, sublime, historic, holy condition of 
affairs. Their attitude towards things as they were, 
was that of our old Tories, of our Castlereaghs and 
Wellingtons, of our Morning Post, towards our 
glorious constitution. They had inherited the con- 


stitution of the Roman Empire as refashioned in the 
third century by Diocletian; and its ideal of rigid, un- 
changing stability, of forming the whole population into 
castes, so that one generation might step into the place 
of another, and nothing but the human material be 
changed. Their culture, the great Greek literature, 
of which Byzantium was the reliquary, they came to 
regard not at all as a stimulus and an inspiration, but 
as a hieratic formula, an exercise of scholarship, a 
litany without meaning or interest. They mostly despised 
it as pagan and read lives of saints instead. 

Under the paint and enamel of its outward civilization 
it remained at heart coldly barbarous, and steadily grew, 
in barbarism from age to age. With its stodgy con- 
scientiousness and prim virtue went the cool and 
customary practice of the most atrocious cruelty. Palace 
revolutions were dramas of unmitigated horror the 
Empress Theophano opening the door to the emperor's 
murderers, Zoe poisoning her husband ; the Empress 
Irene, who founded churches, monasteries and orphanages, 
and was canonized by the Greek Church, gouging out the 
eyes of her son after luring him from the throne by 
appeals to filial affection. To gouge out the eyes, cut 
out the tongue, emasculate, impale, crucify and flay alive, 
were the forms of punishment habitually inflicted. The 
Chalke gate of the Palace on the Augusteon, like those 
of the Seraglio of Turkish sultans, were usually 
decorated with blackening heads ; the walls of Con 
stantinople, after a victory over the Russians, wen. 
garlanded with festoons of several hands ; one of the 
few naval victories over the Saracens was celebrated by 
adorning the coast from Adramytos to Strobilos with the 
impaled bodies of the captives ; and after surprising 
the Bulgars in the gorge of Kimbalongo, Basil II put out 
the eyes of fifteen thousand prisoners, sparing one eye to 
every hundredth man, that the groaning', bleeding multi- 
tude might grope their way back to their king. -When 
provinces like Armenia revolted they were punished 
by wholesale massacres, rape, and devastation, and 
pyramids of severed heads were set up as a warning. 
The lapse of centuries did not bring about a trace of 


moral and humanitarian development; and the Turks, 
who took over much of the usages and traditions of 
the Byzantine court, are blamed to-day for the barbarity 
of the Byzantine peoples over whom it has been their 
misfortune to rule. 

Thus did Byzantium proceed for ten centuries, un- 
changing, with its head turned backwards. But for 
the glassy coruscations of its hieratic mosaics, the 
gems and enamels of its ciboria, the gold of its 
scapularies, the lily pillars, and peacock panels, the 
marble tracery of its transennas, the sepulchral splendour 
of its decorative craft which at once fascinates and 
chills us like the beauty of a dead woman ;\ but for 
some insignificant details of bureaucratic administra- 
tion for the age of Justinian is to be accounted, Roman 
rather than Byzantine it has contributed nothing to 
human culture and civilization, nothing to the resurrec- 
tion of Europe. , To those countries which developed 
under its influence, to Russia and to the Balkan people, 
it has bequeathed those elements which constitute not 
their civilization, but their barbarism. 

Such was the nature of that civilization in which by 
unbroken continuity and in the fullest enjoyment of 
every conceivable advantage the Roman Empire and 
Christianity resulted ; such was the product of the fixed 
conservatism of the one and the theocratic dogmatism of 
the other. Historians nowadays labour to show that 
there was no break between the ancient and the modern 
world, to minimize the darkness of the Dark Ages, to 
exhibit Europe arising out of them by a continuous 
and uninterrupted process. The effect of such con- 
tinuity is visible in the Byzantine Empire. Free cities 
arose in the West out of relics of Roman municipia, trade 
guilds out of the Roman associations ; but anteriorly 
to the development of wealth and trade there were 
and there icould be no free cities and no guilds . Mediaeval 
culture grew on the soil of Greek and Roman literature, 
but under dogmatic domination and amid universal 
illiteracy those literatures were abolished, and before 


the operation and 1 stimulus of other intellectual elements 
mediaeval culture did not, arise. The 'young and virile 
Teutonic nations,' those " christlich-germanischen 
Tugenden " of Giesebrecht and our Teutonic friends, 
which for all our historians, from Stubbs and Seeley and 
Green to the French Taine, are the source of the rebirth 
of the modern world, did not infuse life into it, but 
death and barbarism. The Christian -Germanic virtues 
did not result in progress, but in steady and growing 
barbarization. It is not true that a new world began at 
once to sprout on the ruins of the old. On the contrary, 
for close on five hundred years Europe sank lower 
and lower,; things went steadily and continuously from 
bad to worse. In the ninth century the conditions were 
immeasurably more desolately dark and more utterly 
hopeless than they had been in the sixth or seventh. 
If we picture that dark continent of the ninth century 
isolated from the rest of the world and left ta> its own 
resources, there is no ground for surmising that it could 
ever, by virtue of any element of life existing within it, 
become civilized at all. Whatever possibilities might 
exist in that dark welter of degradation, whatever factor 
might under propitious conditions be turned to ad- 
vantage, it contained no endogenous seeds of life and 
progress that had power to germinate by virtue of their 
intrinsic force. The fate of Europe might quite con- 
ceivably have been to become fossilized into a kind 
of barbaric Abyssinia. 

The light from which civilization was once more re- 
kindled did not arise from any embers of Grasco-Roman 
culture smouldering amid the ruins of Europe, nor from 
the living death on the Bosporus. It did not come from 
the Northern, but from the Southern invaders of the 
empire, from the Saracens. 




THE Semitic people who raised the banner of Islam 
were, like Europe, under the spell of a theological 
dogma, and it was in its name that they rose from 
their desert tents, and in a remarkably short space of 
time conquered an empire vaster than that of Rome, 
which stretched from Kashghar and the Pan jab to the 
Atlantic and the South of France. But in addition to 
the vital contrast between the rich luxuriance of the 
Christian dogma, its stately and elaborate hierarchical 
organization, and the bare, bald theism of Islam, with 
its negation of systematic theology, of myth', of 
tradition, almost destitute of ritual, arid, above all, 
entirely without priesthood, there were other and even 
more fundamental differences. 

No conception could be remoter from the truth than 
that which commonly pictures the coming of Islam as 
a sort of Mahdi rising, a jihad of wild darvishes fired 
to frenzy by religious fanaticism. The experiences from 
which such a picture is drawn, Muslim fanaticism, one 
might almost say Muslim faith, all belong to a subsequent 
age, when Islam's civilization had sunk to dust and its 
creed had become transformed by Ash'arite theology. 
Its origin and its halcyon days were far different. 

The Kuraish' community in whose midst it first arose, 
though untouched in the patriarchal simplicity of its con- 
stitution, was by no means primitive in its mentality. 
It was a society of wealthy and travelled merchants, 
well in touch with the outer world, cultivating fine 
manners, delighting in social intercourse, in cultured 



female society, in poetry already grown artificial and 
frivolous, in tournaments of song; a society that had 
waxed too worldly and sceptical for serious convictions, 
having like the more primitive Arab tribes around it 
outgrown the conglomerate of traditional cults which 
it conventionally continued to profess. The simple- 
minded earnestness of one of their commercial travellers, 
Muhdmmad, made upon that society much the same 
sort of impression as a Unitarian missionary might expect 
to make in Mayfair. The prevalent feeling which he 
voiced was rather one of rationalistic dissatisfaction with' 
the outworn palimpsest of cults than the enthusiasm 
of a religious revelation. And it was in fact as a very 
human destroyer of idols in the broadest sense, as a 
protester against all religious superstructure above the 
generalized idea of theism reduced to its simplest ex- 
pression, that Muhammad, like a sort of Channing, with- 
out any thaumaturgic or supernatural pretensions, in 
the most undisguisedly commonplace, human way, pre- 
sented his ideas of reform. 

There was of course a nucleus of genuine fervour and 
enthusiasm in the closer associates of the prophet, around' 
which were Jater formed the Shi'ite and Sunnite parties, 
there were leaders like the great 'Omar, the St. Paul 
of Islam, the moving spirit of its expansion and organi- 
zation, in a sense its true founder. But all those elements 
became almost immediately submerged and reduced to 
a subordinate position destitute of influence or im- 
portance. The whole subsequent development and 
marvellous expansion was not a religious but a political 
movement, one whose sole aim, in fact, was conquest 
and plunder. The mass of Muslim tribes knew and 
cared nothing about Islam amusement was caused on 
more than one occasion by their inability to recite a 
single prayer beyond the opening formula, " Bismillah 
er-rahman, er-rahim" The dazzling rapidity of the 
conquest was chiefly due, not to Muslim prowess or to 
Byzantine inefficiency, but to the assistance and friendli- 
ness of the Christian populations of Syria and Egypt, sick 
to death of theocratic oppression and of theology. 

After the first days of the ' orthodox ' Khalifs, when 


the Commander of the Faithful was pointed out to 
astonished pilgrims in the streets of Medina, clad in 
a tattered jubba eating sesame bread and onions, and 
when the great 'Omar journeyed on a camel to receive 
the homage of conquered Jerusalem, accompanied by a 
single attendant and with a bag of dates for luggage, 
the Khallfate passed to the Kuraish Umayyads, the 
bitterest opponents of Islam, who made no secret of 
the purely political nature of their adhesion and claims, 
and overtly flaunted their indifference. Never was a 
religion propagated with so little religious faith. We 
have in fact in Islam the rather extraordinary spectacle 
of a professedly religious movement which, while it 
gave rise later in its utter decadence to a widespread 
and earnest religious faith of great vitality, was in its 
origin and throughout its hey-day utterly indifferent to 
religion, a movement in which large populations were 
willingly converted by lukewarm and unbelieving 
apostles, and whose final triumph as a religion was 
effected by hordes of barbarian invaders who destroyed 
it as a civilization. That peculiar evolution was the 
exact converse of that of Christianity. 

The 'Abbassid princes who became the founders of 
Islamic culture, owed their triumph over the Umayyads 
chiefly to the support of Persia where they had been 
reared. The glorious and ancient empire of the 
Sassanids, which had always been the great trysting- 
place of Hellenistic and oriental commerce and culture, 
had, when conquered to Islam by 'Othman, just reached 
under the two Chosroes the climax of a rich and large- 
minded culture. Gathering and inviting all the intel- 
lectual and industrial products of India and China, it 
also offered the only existing hospitable refuge to perse- 
cuted Christian sects ; and the Nestorians, driven by 
fanaticism from their school at Edessa, had been en- 
couraged to found an even more brilliant one at Jundi 
Shapur. In that tolerant, latitudinarian atmosphere of 
Persia, which had seen so many ' new religions,' Islam- 
was accepted in a philosophic spirit which soon further 
attenuated its already simplified theology into a mild 
theistic rationalism, known to Islamic pietists as the 


Mu 'tazil heresy. Of Muslim faith' no more than that 
slight nominal conformity was retained by the 'Abbdssid 
Khalifs and those who built up the civilization of Islam. 
" They are the elect of God/' said Al-Mamun, " his 
best and most useful servants, whose lives are devoted 
to the improvement of their rational faculties." 

There were other propitious circumstances in the rise of 
Islamic culture. The Arabs had once, like the ancient 
Chaldseans, worshipped * the heavenly bodies/ hence the 
interest of the desert -folk in astronomy. So likewise was 
the rude cultivation of the healing art and of botanical 
lore, in which Muhdmmad and Abu Bakr themselves 
had been proficient, a tradition of the race. And as 
the sons of Araby changed the tents of Shem for the 
luxury of Damascus and Baghdad, they had occasion 
to avail themselves of the services of the Nestorian 
physicians ; and it was gratified admiration for their 
skill and learning which first prompted the Khalifs to 
inquire into the sources whence they derived them . They 
thus became acquainted with the works of Hippocrates 
and Galen, and with those of the latter's admired master, 
Aristotle. Practically untouched in their desert home 
either by the old theocratic empires or by the conquests 
of Rome, they were still the nomad Semites of primitive 
times. When they suddenly attained to wealth and 
power, and came in contact with the traditions of the 
great past civilization, spectrally surviving in the 
Byzantine East, they were not, like the northern bar- 
barians, held in awe by the great name of Rome, which 
had loomed for generations as the embodiment of god- 
like grandeur and power, and by the religion which 
was identified with it. While they coveted the material 
culture which lay sealed and idle in the hands of the 
Roman mummy, they despised the barbarian of Rum. 

There was indeed something of the old pagan, Hellenic 
joy of life in the spirit of that new splendour which arose 
like the fantastic creation of a jinni at the beck of 
the Khalifs, and spread its glinting opulence and delicate 
wizardry over the civilization of the Thousand and 
One Nights&P '& hedonism refined withal and tempered 
by the supefrb gravity of the Bedawin, and a philosophic 


seriousness mindful while it quaffed the cup that it was 
but a small matter, and a frail tenure resting upon the 
caprice of kismet. The incorruptible treasures and de- 
lights of intellectual culture were accounted by the 
princes of Baghdad, Shiraz and Cordova, the truest and 
proudest pomps of their courts. But it was not as 
a mere appanage of princely vanity that the wonderful 
growth of Islamic science and learning was fostered 
by their patronage. They pursued culture with the 
personal ardour of an overmastering craving. Never 
before and never since, on such a scale, has the spectacle 
been 'witnessed of the ruling classes throughout the 
length and breadth of a vast empire given over entirely 
to a frenzied passion for the acquirement of knowledge. 
Learning seemed to have become with them the chief 
business of life. Khallfs and Emirs hurried from their 
diwans to closet themselves in their libraries and ob- 
servatories ; they neglected their affairs of state which 
they in general sorely mismanaged to attend lectures 
and converse on mathematical problems '"with men of 
science ; caravans laden with manuscripts and botanical 
specimens plied from Bokhara to the Tigris, from Egypt 
to Andalusia-; embassies were sent to Constantinople 
and to India for the sole purpose of obtaining books 
and teachers ; a collection of Greek authors or a dis- 
tinguished mathematician was eagerly demanded as the 
ransom of an empire. To every mosque was attached 
a school ; wazirs vied with their masters in establishing 
public libraries, endowing colleges, 'founding bursaries 
for impecunious students . Men of learning, irrespectively 
of race or religion, took precedence over all others ; 
honours and riches were showered upon them, they were 
appointed to the government of provinces ; a retinue 
of professors and a camel train of books accompanied 
the Khallfs in their journeys and expeditions. 

It was under the influence of the Arabian and Moorish 
revival of culture, and not in the fifteenth century, that 
the real Renaissance took place . Spain, not Italy, was 
the cradle of the rebirth of Europe. After steadily 
sinking lower and lower into barbarism, it had reached 
the darkest depths of ignorance and degradation when 


the cities of the Saracenic world, Baghdad, Cairo, 
Cordova, Toledo, were growing* centres of civilization 
and intellectual activity. It was there that the new 
life arose which was to grow into a new phase of human 
evolution. From the time when the influence of their 
culture made itself felt, began the stirring of a new life . 

The fact has been set forth again and' again. 
But it has been nevertheless stubbornly ignored and 
persistently minimized. The debt of Europe to the 
' heathen dog ' could, of course, find no place in the 
scheme of Christian history, and the garbled falsifica- 
tion has imposed itself on all subsequent conceptions. 
Even Gibbon treated Islam depreciatingly, an instance 
of the power of conventional tradition upon its keenest 
opponents. Until the last century there did not even 
exist anything approaching accurate knowledge of Sara- 
cenic history and culture. "Those accounts of Mahomet 
and Islam which were published in Europe before the 
beginning of the nineteenth 1 century are now to be re- 
garded simply as literary curiosities.'* ' At the present 
day, when wider and more exact knowledge is becoming 
accessible, scarcely any history of the Middle Ages gives 
Islamic culture more than an off-hand and patronizing 
recognition. The history of the rebirth of Europe from 
barbarism is constantly being written without any refer- 
ence whatsoever, except to mention l< the triumphs of 
the Cross over the Crescent," and " the reclamation 
of Spain from the Moorish yoke," to the influence of 
Arab civilization the history of the Prince of Denmark 
without Hamlet. Dr. Osborn Taylor has even achieved 
the feat of writing two large volumes on the develop- 
ment of The Mediceval Mind without betraying by a 
hint the existence of Muhammadan culture. 

That a brilliant and energetic civilization full of 
creative energy should have existed side by side and 
in constant relation with populations sunk in barbarism, 
without exercising a profound and vital influence upon 
their development, would be a manifest anomaly. That 
no such suspension of natural law was involved in the 
relation between Islam and Europe, is abundantly 
1 Professor JBevan, Camb. Med. Hist, 


attested in spite of the conspiring of every circumstance 
to suppress, deform, and obliterate the records of that 
relation. Its extent and importance have been beyond 
doubt far greater than it is to-day possible to demon- 
strate in detail. Like the geological record of extinct 
life, our knowledge in the matter is derived from the 
scattered and accidentally preserved fragments of 
evidence which have been spared by forces uni- 
versally tending to blot them out. When those 
conditions, when the obliteration of evidence, its dis- 
tortion, the persistent prejudice and misrepresentation 
which fastens upon every single fact, are borne in mind, 
there can be no doubt that our estimate of that influence 
must err on the side of under-, rather than of over- 
estimation. It is highly probable that but for the Arabs 
modern European civilization would never have arisen 
at all ; it is absolutely certain that but for them, ife 
would not have assumed that character which has 
enabled it to transcend all previous phases of evolution. 
For although there is not a single aspect of European 
growth in which the decisive influence of Islamic culture 
is not traceable, nowhere is it so clear and momentous 
as in the genesis of that power which constitutes the 
paramount distinctive force of the modern world and 
the supreme source of its victory natural science and 
the scientific spirit. 

It must be admitted that, in recoil from the general 
conspiracy of silence of our histories, several writers 
who have sought to vindicate the claims of Arab culture 
have somewhat exaggerated the achievements of Arabian 
science. Against such loose panegyrics it has been 
objected, that Arab science produced no surpassing 
genius and no transcending discovery ; that it was de- 
rived from extraneous sources. That is substantially 
true, but entirely irrelevant. Arab astronomy did not 
forestall Copernicus or Newton, though without it there 
would have been no Copernicus and no Newton. 
Although the complexity of the Ptolemaic system was 
repeatedly criticized by Moorish astronomers, although 
Al-Zarkyal declared the planetary orbits to be ellipses 
and not circles, although the orbit of Mercury is in 


Al-Farani's tables actually represented as elliptical, 
although Muhammad Ibn Musa glimpsed in his works 
on Astral Motion and The Force of Attraction 
the law of universal gravitation, those adumbrations of 
the truth were not fruitful of any great reform. The 
only important facts brought to light by Arabian 
astronomy, the discovery of the movements of the sun's 
apogee by Al-Batani, and of the secondary variations 
of the moon's motion by Abu '1-Wafa, exercised no per- 
ceptible influence upon the course of research, and had 
to be rediscovered by Tycho. Ibn Sina is said to have 
employed an air thermometer, and Ibn Yunis certainly 
did use the pendulum for the measurement of time ; but 
neither of those devices, which were independently re- 
introduced by Galileo, can be counted as a contribution 
to the growth of science. 

That, however, is entirely beside the point. The 
debt of our science to that of the Arabs does not consist 
in startling discoveries or revolutionary theories ; science 
owes a great deal more to Arab culture, it owes its exist- 
ence. The ancient world was, as we saw, pre- scientific. The 
astronomy and mathematics of the Greeks were a foreign 
importation never thoroughly acclimatized in Greek 
culture. The Greeks systematized, generalized and 
theorized, but the patient ways of investigation, the 
accumulation of positive knowledge, the minute methods 
of science, detailed and prolonged observation, experi- 
mental inquiry, were altogether alien to the Greek 
temperament. Only in Hellenistic Alexandria was any, 
approach to scientific work conducted in the ancient 
classical world. What we call science arose in Europe 
as a result of a new spirit of inquiry, of new methods 
of investigation, of the method of experiment, observa- 
tion, measurement, of the development of mathematics 
in a form unknown to the Greeks. That spirit and 
those methods were introduced into the European world 
by the Arabs. 

Greek manuscripts were collected and translated at 
the court of the 'Abbassids with an ardour even more 
enthusiastic than that which inspired the Aurispas and 
Filelfos of fifteenth -century Italy. But the choice of the 


Arab' collectors and the object of their interest were 
very different. Of the poets and historians of Greece, 
beyond satisfying their curiosity by a few samples, they 
took little account. Their object was information ; and 
besides the writings of the philosophers from Thales to 
Apollonius of [Tyana, and the textbooks of medical science, 
it was above all to the writings of the Alexandrian 
Academy, the astronomy and geography of Ptolemy, 
the mathematical works of Euclid, Archimedes, Dio- 
phantes, Theon, Apollonius of Perga, that they devoted 
their attention. For speculative theories and broad 
generalizations they showed little aptitude, valuing as 
they did information for its own sake and as a means 
to the extension of knowledge, rather than as the basis 
of generalizing induction. They accepted tjie conclusions 
of the "Greeks as working theories necessary to the 
pursuit of scientific inquiry, only venturing to criticize 
or modify them as the expansion of knowledge forced 
them to adapt them to new facts. They have been 
reproached with imposing a dogmatic spirit in science 
upon Europe. Christian Europe had little to learn in 
the way of dogmatism ; and those theories, such as the 
Ptolemaic system, the geographical doctrine of 
1 climates,' the doctrine of alchemical transmutation, 
which it received from the Arabs, were not Arabic, 
but Greek. But the spirit in which the Arabs made 
use of existing materials was the exact opposite of 
that of the Greeks. It supplied precisely what had 
been the weak and defective aspect of Greek genius. 
For the Greeks it was in theory and generalization that 
the interest lay, they were neglectful and careless of 
fact ; the Arabian inquirers* zeal, on the contrary, was 
careless of theory, and directed to the accumulation of 
concrete facts, and to giving to their knowledge a pre- 
cise and quantitative form. What makes all the difference 
between fruitful, enduring science and mere loose scientific 
curiosity, is the quantitative as against the qualitative 
statement, the anxiety for the utmost attainable accuracy 
in measurement. In that spirit of objective research' 
and quantitative accuracy the whole of the vast 
scientific work of the Arabs was conducted, They 

DlR AL-H1KMET 193 

accepted Ptolemy's cosmology, but not his catalogue 
of stars or his planetary table, or his measurements. 
They drew up numerous new star catalogues, correcting 
and greatly amplifying the Ptolemaic one ; they com- 
piled new sets of planetary tables, obtained more 
accurate values for the obliquity of the ecliptic and the 
precession of equinoxes, checked by two independent 
measurements of a meridian the estimates of the size 
of the earth. They devised for the carrying out of 
those observations elaborate instruments superior to those 
of the Greeks and exceeding in accuracy those manu- 
factured in the fifteenth century at the famous Nuremberg 
factory. Each observer took up the, work independently, 
sought to eliminate the personal equation, and the 
method of continuous observation was systematically 
carried out some observations extending over twelve 
years at the observatories of Damascus, Baghdad, and 
Cairo. So much importance did they attach to accuracy 
in their records that those of special interest were 
formally signed on oath in legal form. 

The same objective and quantitative spirit is mani- 
fested in all their activities. When Al-Mamun ordered 
his post -master, Ibn Khurdadbeh, to draw up an account 
of his dominions and of all the sea and land routes 
in use the first of those numerous geographical works 
of the Arabs which opened a new view of the world 1 
and a new geographyhe insisted that each place should 
be localized by accurately detertnined longitudes and 
latitudes. Al-Byruny travelled forty years to collect 
mineralogical specimens ; and his tables of specific 
weights obtained by differential weighing are found to 
be correct. Ibn Baitar collected botanical specimens 
from the whole Muslim world and compared the floras 
of India and Persia with those otf Greece and Spain ; 
his work describing 1,400 plants is pronounced by 
Meyer l "a monument of industry." Contrast that 
spirit of scientific minuteness and perseverance in 
observation with the speculative methods of the 
ancients who scorned mere empiricism ; with Aris- 
totle who wrote on physics without performing 
? Gesch. der Botanik, ii, 233. 


a single experiment/ and on natural history without 
taking the trouble to -ascertain the most easily verifiable 
facts, who calmly states that men have more teeth than 
women, while Galen, the greatest classical authority on 
anatomy, informs us that the lower jaw consists of two 
bones, a statement which is accepted unchallenged till 
'Abd al-Letif takes the trouble to examine human skulls. 
The Arabs gathered their knowledge from whatever 
sources were at hand. The bulk of their astronomy 
and some of their mathematics came from Greek and 
Hellenistic sources. That ancient science of the Greeks 
had itself been originally derived from the Babylonians, 
migrants from Arabia to Mesopotamia, like the Arabs. 
Thus that ancient science which the latter restored to 
Europe was itself the achievement of their own ancient 
cousins from whom the Greeks had once borrowed it. 
But by a singular good fortune another source of 
scientific knowledge had become available. In the 
Gupta Renaissance of the fifth century in India a notable 
intellectual movement had taken place. Two writers 
in particular, Aryo-Bhatta and Brahmagupta, had pro- 
duced important novelties in mathematics. In the hands 
of the Arabs those new methods became combined with 
the unwieldy and unpractical methods of the Greek 
mathematicians, and further elaborated. While the 
highest mathematical knowledge of the Christian West 
did not extend beyond a laboured use of the rule of three, 
and the simplest operations of arithmetic were performed 
by means of the abacus the same device of wires and 
beads that is used in our kindergartens the Arabs per- 
fected the decimal system of notation by introducing 
the use of the cipher or zero (Ar. zlrr) ; they created 
Algebra and carried it to the solution of equations of 
the fourth degree, and trigonometry, substituting sines 
and tangents for the chord of the Greeks, and thus 
multiplied a thousandfold the powers of human inquiry. 
Not only did the Arabs create those mathematics 
which were to be the indispensable instrument of 
scientific analysis, they laid the foundation of those 
methods of experimental research which in conjunction 
with mathematical analysis gave birth to modern science . 


Chemistry, the rudiments of which arose in the processes 
employed by Egyptian metallurgists and jewellers com- 
bining metals into various alloys and ' tinting ' them 
to resemble gold processes long preserved as a secret 
monopoly of the priestly colleges, and clad in the usual 
mystic formulas, developed in the hands of the Arabs 
into a widespread, organized passion for research which 
led them to the invention of distillation, sublimation, 
filtration, to the discovery of alcohol, of nitric and 
sulphuric acids (the only acid known to the ancients 
was vinegar), of the alkalis, of the salts of mercury, of 
antimony and bismuth, and laid the basis of all 
subsequent chemistry and physical research. 

Like the Hellenistic materials of which it availed 
itself, Arabian science, and with it the science of 
the Middle Ages, was tainted with all the fantastic 
disorders with which it had always been associated in 
the oriental iand Hellenistic world. Its astronomy 
arose from Chaldasan astrology, its chemistry from 
hermetic alchemy. It was, in fact, largely from the 
same mystical atmosphere of the Hellenistic Orient 
whence the new religions, the theologies of the epoch 
of Christian origins, had sprung, that the materials of 
science were derived. But whereas in the case of 
theologies and religions those fancies constitute the very 
substance of the speculative fabric, in that of investi- 
gation into natural phenomena they are no more than 
the outward dress and terminology, the setting of 
scientific inquiry, which can up to a certain point proceed 
quite usefully and without being greatly vitiated in con- 
sequence. Astronomical observation has not been seri- 
ously impaired by being pursued as astrology. Tycho, 
Copernicus, Kepler were astrologers. The narrow spirit 
in which Ptolemy produced his compilation of astrono- 
mical knowledge, and the authority of his name, have, 
as a matter of fact, proved immeasurably more baneful 
to the progress of science than all the notions of 
astrology. And in experimental research the con- 
cepts of alchemy, far from being an obstacle to 
the progress of knowledge, were the fortunate occasion 
without which that difficult line of inquiry might never 


have been pursue'd. It was, rightly considered, a work- 
ing hypothesis as good as could be devised in the absence 
of the knowledge to which it was itself to lead the 
human mind. All bodies and substances were conceived 
to consist of a uniform and universal ' materia prima * 
diversified by the admixture of the four Aristotelian 
elements, water, earth, air and fire. But from the 
presence and combination of those elements with primi- 
tive matter, could not be deduced the peculiar properties 
of substances ; hence they were ascribed to ' occult 
virtues ' connected Sn some way with the seven metals, 
which were imagined to bear some relation to the seven 
planets ; and' in order to discover those properties or 
virtues there was no other way but to study substances 
in themselves and in their various combinations, to 
endeavour to purge them! from the masking elements 
and reduce them to their pure state, to discover the 
processes and reagents which could bring about in them 
the observed transformations. It should be noted that 
among Arabian and mediaeval scientific inquirers the 
relative importance attached to mystic theory and ascer- 
tained facts varied widely in every degree, from that of 
vulgar charlatanism intent on exploiting popular super- 
stition, to that of the intellectual inquirer! concerned with 
results, and to whom speculative theory had only the 
interest of an hypothesis. Though to the mediaeval 
popular mind all science was magic, and the Arab 
scientists were spoken of as necromancers, the most 
distinguished of them rose well above that atmosphere. 
Thus with all the great Arabian astronomers observation 
and analysis of results was the thing of importance, to 
the exclusion of the trade in horoscopes and astrological 
prediction, which they left to the vulgar practitioner. 
And in the case of alchemical ideas, that premature 
evolutionary theory was strongly contested by several 
leading Arabian chemists ; and in the eleventh century 
the dispute between its defenders and opponents de- 
veloped into a lively controversy. So great an authority 
as Ibn Sina himself said : ' Those of the chemical 
craft know well that no change can be effected in 
the different species of substances, though they can 


produce the appearance of isuch change." Europe, where 
the Lateran Council of 1215 had proclaimed the dogma 
of transubstantiation, generally adopted the theory of 
transmutation of metals, which had fallen into discredit 
among the Arabs. " Theosophy and mysticism," says 
Sir Edward Thorpe, 1 " were first imported into Alchemy 
not by the Arabs, but by Christian workers." 

Science is not a tradition, but the essence of pro- 
gressive thought. The science of one generation is 
consequently looked down upon by succeeding ones from 
those very heights of knowledge to which it has helped 
to raise them. Our own physiological and biological 
theories will probably appear as quaint to our de- 
scendants as do the conceptions in which the infancy 
of science was swaddled. Not until a quite recent 
time has it cast them off. Kepler drew horoscopes, 
Copernicus accounted for planetary motions by pro- 
pelling angels, Newton himself applied his mathematical 
genius to the working out of the astrological prophecies 
in the Book of Daniel ; the doctrine of alchemical trans- 
mutation was firmly held by Robert Boyle, by von 
Helmont, by Boerhaave, by Newton, by Leibnitz, and 
by Stahl ; Priestley, obsessed with the theory of 
phlogiston, refused to recognize the significance of his 
own discovery of oxygen. It was not till the eve of 
the French Revolution that, thanks to Lavoisier, newi 
conceptions of the various forms of matter supplanted 
the hypotheses under which, from the days of the Arabs, 
chemical analysis and the experimental investigation of 
nature had proceeded. 

In the -new methods which they introduced, in that 
star-gazing, in those alembics, in that new lore uncouth 
and larded with gross fancies as much of it was 
which differed so entirely in temper from the old classic 
culture, and long preceded the revival of its study in 
Europe, lay the future of the world, the germ whence, 
after a maturation of several centuries, was to burst 
forth the titanic force of modern science. 

Hist, of Chemistry, p 36. 


Arabian knowledge began at an early date to percolate 
into Christian Europe. If there be any ground of fact 
in the legend of the alchemical pursuits of St. Dunstan, 
Arabian lore must have been much more widely diffused 
in the tenth century than can be shown by surviving 
records. Under absolute religious tolerance, Christians 
enjoyed complete freedom in the Spanish Khalifate ; they 
had their own bishop ; several monasteries existed in 
the outskirts of the capital which served as hostels for 
travellers, and monks were commonly seen in the streets 
of Cordjova. From all parts of Europe numerous 
studjents betook themselves to the great Arab seats of 
learning in search of the light which only there was to 
be found. Alvaro, a Cordovan bishop, writes in the 
ninth century : " All the young Christians who distin- 
guish themselves by their, x talent, know the language 
and literature of the Arabs, read and study pas- 
sionately the Arab books, gather at great expense great 
libraries of these, and everywhere proclaim with a loud 
voice how admirable is that literature." l The famous 
Gerbert of Aurillac brought from Spain some rudiments 
of astronomy and mathematics, and taught his astonished 
pupils from terrestrial and celestial 1 globes. Though his 
learning was not deep, and it is probably erroneously, 
that he is credited with introducing the decimal notation 
he still used the Roman abacus his keen taste for 
knowledge " stolen from the Saracen," in William of 
Malmesbury's phrase, made him, as Pope Sylvester II, 
the hero of fantastic Faust legends widely popular 
throughout the Middle Ages. 

During the next two centuries the process of diffusion 
assumed an extensive scale. An African monk, Con- 
stantine, who had acted as secretary to Robert Guiscard, 
devoted himself with enthusiasm to the translation of 
Arab textbooks and to introducing the new learning 
into the mother house of the Benedictines at Monte 
Cassino, whence the path lay open for its transmission 
to the far-flung houses of the order. Another 
Benedictine, Adelhard of Bath, brought with him from 

1 Indiculus luminosits, in Florez, Espana Sagrada, vol. xi. 


Cordova a large collection of books and much doctrine, 
which he and his nephew actively spread abroad in France 
and England. From his copy of Euclid all subsequent 
editions down to 1533 have been published. Daniel de 
Morlay likewise proceeded to Cordova to learn mathe- 
matics and astronomy, published the fruits of his studies 
and lectured at Oxford. Plato of Tivoli translated Al- 
Batani's astronomy and other mathematical works. At 
the end of the twelfth century a young Pisan merchant, 
Leonardo Fibonacci, while travelling in Algeria and Spain 
became enamoured of the new mathematical sciences of 
the Arabs, and after several new journeys issued a trans- 
lation of Al-Khwarismi's great work on algebra. He 
definitely popularized the perfected decimal notation, which 
became known, with the facilitated arithmetic resulting 
from it, as algorism, from the Arabian writer's name. 
Fibonacci, whose work had a wide influence, must be 
accounted the founder of modern mathematics in 
Christian Europe and the first of the long line of Italian 
mathematicians. Gerard of Cremona was the most in- 
dustrious among the popularizers of Arab literature ; he 
spent fifty years in the Khalifate of Cordova and brought 
forth no less than sixty translations, among which the 
Almagest, and the Astronomy of Al-Haitham. Michael 
Scot repeatedly visited Cordova for the purpose of obtain- 
ing manuscripts and making translations. The influx 
of students into Spain and the activity of translators 
went on till the last days of the Khalifate. Arnold of 
Villeneuve, and Raymond Lully, the friend of Bacon, 
studied in Spain and taught at Montpellier ; Campanus 
of Novara studied mathematics at Cordova and taught in 
Vienna ; and systematic schools for the translation of 
Arab textbooks were established in Toledo by Alfonso the 

The Jews shared under the complete tolerance of 
Moorish rule in the cultural evolution of the Khalifate; 
and as they scattered over Europe, especially after the 
Almohadean conquest, became the carriers of that culture 
to the remotest barbaric lands. We find them 
freely teaching and discussing with the inmates of 
secluded monasteries whose curiosity for the strange 


learning prevailed upon their religious prejudices. 1 
French and German monks obtain from them the text- 
books of the new sciences ; and even literary nuns in 
Thuringian convents, such as the famous Hildegard and 
Hroswitha, did not disdain to avail themselves of their 
learning. They established numerous schools, such as 
that of the 'Kimhis and of Ben Esra at Narbonne, where 
Arabian science was popularized and Arabic books trans- 
lated. Numerous Jews followed William of Normandy 
to England and enjoyed his protection, building there the 
first stone burgher houses which may still be seen at 
Lincoln and St. Edmundsbury, and establishing a school 
of science at Oxford ; it was under their successors at 
that Oxford school that Roger Bacon learned Arabic 
and Arabic science. Neither Roger Bacon nor his later 

1 A passage of Joinville's, of interest in more than one respect, is 
worth citing in full in this connection. I slightly modernize the 
spelling : " II [St. Louis] me conta que il cut une grande 
disputation de clercs et de Juifs au moustier (monastere) de Cluny. 
L& estait un chevalier a qui 1'abbe avait dorme" le pain la pour 
Dieu, et requit a I'abb6 que il li lessast dire la premiere parole, ce qu'il 
lui octroya a peine. Et lors il se leva et s'appuya sur sa crosse, et 
dit que lui li faist venir le plus grave clerc et le plus grant mestre 
des Juifs, et si firent ils. Et lui fist une demande qui fut telle : 
Mestre, fist le chevalier, je vous demande si vous croyez que la 
Vierge Marie qui Dieu porta en ses flancs et en ses bras, enfantat 
vierge, et que elle soit mdre de Dieu. Et le Juif re"pondit que de 
tout cela il ne croyait rien. Et le chevalier li re"pondit que moult 
avait fait que fol, quant il ne lo croyait, ni ne la lamoit, et estait entre 
dans son moustier et en sa maison. Et vraiement, fist le chevalier, 
vous le payerez ; et lors il hau9a sa potence et feri le Juif pres de 
1'oreille et le porta par terre. Et les Juifs tourndrent en fuite, et 
emporte'rent leur mestre tout b!6ci6 ; et ainsi demoura la disputation. 
Lors vint 1'abbe" au chevalier, et lui dist qu'il avait fait grande folie. 
Et le chevalier dit que encore avoit il fait plus grande folie, 
d'essembler telle disputation ; car avant que la disputation feust 
men6e a fin, avait il ceans grand foisons de bons Chretiens, qui se 
furent parti tous mescreants, parce qu'ils n'eurent mie bien entendu 
les Juifs. Aussi, vous dis-je, fist le roy, que nul, s'il n'esttres bon 
clerc, ne doit disputer avec eux; mais rhomme laic, quant il oye 
me~dire de la loi chretienne, ne doit pas de"fendre la loi chrtienne, 
sinon de 1'espee, de quoi il doit donner parmi le ventre dedans, 
tout comme elle y peut entrer." Intolerance and persecution of 
Jews was a feature of the later, rather than of the earlier Middle 


namesake has any title to be credited with having intro- 
duced the experimental method. Roger Bacon was no 
more than one of the apostles of Muslim science and 
method to Christian Europe ; and he never wearied of 
declaring that a knowledge of Arabic and Arabian science 
was for his contemporaries the only way to true know- 
ledge. Discussions as to who was the originator of 
the experimental method, like the fostering of every 
Arab discovery or invention on the first European 
who happens to mention it, such as the invention of 
the compass to a fabulous Flavio Gioja of Amalfi, of 
alcohol to Arnold of Villeneuve, of lenses and gunpowder 
to Bacon or Schwartz, are part of the colossal mis- 
representation of the origins of European civilization. 
The experimental method of the Arabs was by Bacon's 
time widespread and eagerly cultivated throughout 
Europe ; it had been proclaimed by Adelhard of 
Bath, by Alexander pf Neckam, by Vincent of Beauvais, 
by Arnold of Villeneuve, by Bernard Silvestris, who 
entitles his manual Experimentarius, by Thomas of 
Cantimpre, by Albertus Magnus. 

In the hands of Jewish doctors trained in Arab schools, 
where medical art had been carried far beyond that of 
the ancients, the practice and teaching of medicine re- 
mained throughout the Middle Ages. The pharma- 
copoeia created by the Arabs is virtually that which, 
but for the recent synthetic and organotherapic prepara- 
tions, is in use at the present day ; our common drugs, 
such as nux vomica, senna, rhubarb, aconite, gentian, 
myrrh, calomel, and the structure of our prescriptions, 
belong to Arabic medicine. The medical school of 
Montpellier was founded on the pattern of that of Cordova 
under Jew doctors. The example was imitated at Padua 
and later at Pisa, where together with the Canons of 
Avicenna (Ibn Sina) and the Surgery of Abu '1-Kasim, 
which until the seventeenth century remained the text- 
books of medical science throughout Europe, were taught 
the mathematics and astronomy of the Moors. Those 
were the nurseries which were one day to bring forth 
Fallopius, Vesalius, Cardan, Harvey, Galileo. 

That power which has transformed the material and 


mental world is the product by direct filiation of the 
science of the astrologers, alchemists, and of the medical 
schools of the later Middle Ages ; and those arose directly 
and solely as a result of Arabian civilization. Down 
to the fifteenth century whatever scientific activity existed 
in Europe was engaged in assimilating Arab learning 
without greatly adding to it. Prince Henry of Portugal 
established under Arab and Jewish teachers his great 
nautical academy at Cape St. Vincent, which prepared 
the way for Vasco da Gamla, and for the expansion of 
Europe to the uttermost ends of the earth. The first 
mathematical treatise printed in Europe (1494) is but 
a paraphrase and in parts a transcription of Leonardo 
Fibonacci's translations by Luca Pacioli, the friend of 
another Leonardo Leonardo da Vinci. J It was from Al- 
Batini's tables that Regiomontanus constructed the 
Ephemerides which made the voyage of Columbus 
possible ; Kepler carried out his work by means of 
the Hakemite tables pf Ibn Yunis ; Vesalius translated 
Al-Razi. The spirit pf science passed through jthe period 
of the Classical Renaissance without being influenced by 
it, and developed in seclusion, independently of classi- 
cizing influences. 

Science is the most momentous contribution of Arab 
civilization to the modern world, but its fruits were slow 
in ripening. Not until long after Moorish culture had 
sunk back into darkness did the giant to which it had 
given birth rise in his might. It was not science which 
brought Europe back to life. Other and manifold In- 
fluences from the civilization of Islam communicated 
its first glow to European life. 



THE industrial and commercial activity of the East, 
of Moorish Spain and Sicily, created European com- 
merce and manufactures. These gave rise to the wealth 
and power of the merchant classes, and the commercial 
cities ; the burgher communities became strong enough 
to defy the feudal powers, and the new force of free 
republics and communes overthrew the tyranny and law- 
lessness of the barons. Thus, like culture, political liberty 
and organization came to Europe with bales of goods 
from the Levant. Until trade and industry had developed, 
until burghers had waxed substantial through eastern 
traffic there were no communes, there were hardly cities. 
The coast towns of Catalonia and Provence were the 
first to rise in importance and to life through trade with 
the Arabs. Free and autonomous republics were estab- 
lished at Marseille, Aries, Nice;. The source whence 
from earliest days that wealth had grown may be 
sufficiently gathered from the account given by 
Theodulf, Bishop of Orleans, of a journey to the South 
of France as one of Charlemagne's missi dominici. On 
his arrival at Marseille,, he says, " the people came to us 
in crowds, men, women, children, old men, loaded with 
presents, persuaded that they had only to offer them to 
us in order to obtain their wishes. . . . One offered 
crystals and orient pearls, . . . another brought a heap of 
gold pieces on which shone Arabic sentences and 
characters . . . another said, ' I have cloths which 
come from the Saracens and it is not possible to see aught 
more richly coloured or more delicately and better 
wrought . . . another showed me hides of leather 



from Cordova, some white as snow, others red . . . 
another offered me carpets." l 

The cities of Southern Italy next followed ; Amalfi, 
Salerno, Naples and Gaeta, rising gradually to wealth 
and freedom through commerce with their Muslim neigh- 
bours of Sicily, and gradually extending their connections 
in conjunction with Arab traders to Africa and Syria. 
The Emperor Ludwig II accused Naples of being as 
Muhammadan as Palermo. Amalfi and the first Italian 
free cities of Southern Italy entered into alliance with the 
Muslims of Sicily (875) and actually assisted them when 
they advanced to the gates of Rome, defying the ex- 
communications of Pope John VIII. And when a crusade 
was moved against Islam, they refused to bear arms 
against the people who had helped them to wealth and 
greatness. Pisa, Genoa, and Venice used the opportunity 
to outreach Amalfi and Naples. Pisa, which the chronicle 
of Donizo describes in 1 1 14 as " unclean with " swarm- 
ing Saracens, " Turks, Lybians and Chaldasans," who 
possessed a whole quarter of the city, known as Kin- 
sica, 2 rose, like Genoa, to importance by trade 
with Saracenic Sardinia. Such was the destitute 
condition of Europe prior to the development of 
that commerce, that, having neither native products 
nor money to exchange for the wares of the 
Arabs, the first Italian merchant-adventurers kidnapped 
the children of neighbouring villages, and paid for their 
goods with cargoes of human flesh. Genoa and Pisa 
joined forces to conquer Sardinia, which produced the 
finest wool, that of England excepted ; the wool-trade 
passed thence to Lucca, where the art of weaving had 
been brought from Palermo, and whence, after the sack 
of the town by Uguccione della Faggiola, the master- 
weavers established themselves in Florence. Thus was 
laid the foundation of that Florentine wealth and great- 
ness, which before long made the Tuscan merchants 
the bankers of Europe. 

The Arabs opened up the land-routes to India, to China, 
Malacca, and Timbuctoo, the emporium of Central 

* Mon. Germ. Hist., Poet. Lat. I. 499. 

* Muratori, Ant. Med. Aev., diss. 30. 


African trade ; and sent their caravans to the rich lands 
beyond the Sahara long before the Portuguese doubled 
Cape Verde. They held the monopoly of the sea-routes 
to India, and the Emosaids founded along the eastern 
coast of Africa a line of trading colonies from the Sudan 
coast and Socotra to Mombaza, Mozambique, Zanzibar 
and Madagascar. 

They improved the art of shipbuilding, taught 
Mediterranean seamen to construct lighter sailing-ships 
or caravels (gdraf), to caulk their boats with tar 
still known in Romance languages by the Arabic 
name of gatran (Fr. goudron, It. caltramc) to 
handle sails and cables (Ar. hdbl). Moorish mer- 
chants established their fundaks in the Christian ports, 
plied between the great sea-ports of Andalusia, Valencia, 
Almeria, and Malaga to those of Provence and the South 
of France, brought their wares to the markets of Mont- 
pellier and Narbonne. Arab dinars are to this day 
found as far north as the shores of the North Sea and 
the Baltic in greater abundance than Roman coins or 
Greek besants. They introduced the system of bills 
of exchange, and the commerce of the Mediterranean 
was regulated by the institution of sea-consuls first 
adopted at Barcelona. 

The fine linens, the cottons, the silks, the delicate and 
gorgeous fabrics of the Saracenic world, satins and 
sarcenets, Persian taffetas, damasks from Damascus, bau- 
dekin from Baghdad, muslin from Mosul, gauzes from 
Gaza, grenadines from Grenada, moires, crepes and 
chiffons (not ' rag/ but diaphanous chiff from 
Tripoli), chamlets, karsies, and radzimirs, created a 
demand for fine raiment among the coarsely clad popu- 
lations of Europe. In the Nibelung lay Krimhild 
anachronicly adorns herself with 

" Die arabischen siden wiz also der sne, 

unde von Zazamanc der gruenen so der kle . . . 

von Marrock dem lande imd ouch von Libian 

die aller besten siden die ie mer gewan." 1 

1 " The Arabian silks white as snow, and those from Zazaman 
green as the clover leaf . . . from the land of Morocco and also from 
Lebanon, the best silks that were ever won," 


The looms of Syria and Spain, of which sixteen 
thousand were at work in Seville alone, and 
where a hundred and thirty thousand silk-workers 
were employed at Cordova, wove the materials for 
the garments of nobles and the sacramental vest- 
ments of Christian prelates ; and it was not an 
uncommon spectacle to see a bishop celebrating mass 
with an 'dyai of the Kuran elegantly embroidered on his 
chasuble. The women of Europe learnt to wear an 
Arab kamis (chemise) and jubba (jupe, jupon). The 
warriors of Christendom were eager to wield blades forged 
in Damascus, Almeria, or Toledo, and to ride in Cordovan 
saddles. The sugar-cane was introduced and Europeans 
first tasted confectioneries, sweetmeats and sorbets. By 
and by the manufactures of the East were introduced and 
imitated in Christian Europe. Silk-looms were estab- 
lished in Norman Sicily. Venice copied with the aid of 
native craftsmen the 'glassware of Antioch ; Lyons the 
damasks, Paris the ' tapis sarrasins,' and Rheims the 
linen of Syria. The rich dyes of the East were brought 
to Bruges, where they were used to prepare English 
wool for the market. The wares of Spain and 
Majorca led to the establishment of Italian factories 
for the manufacture of majolica. Sugar factories were 
transferred from Sicily to Italy and from Spain to the 
South of France. 

The Arabs introduced three inventions into Europe, 
each of which was to bring about a world- transforming 
revolution : the mariner's compass which was to expand 
Europe to the ends of the earth ; gunpowder which was 
to bring to an end the supremacy of the armoured knight ; 
and paper which prepared the way for the printing- 
press. The revolution effected by the introduction of 
paper was scarcely less important than that brought about 
by printing. The extreme scarcity of books was in a 
large measure due to the scarcity of parchment ; we 
know how the texts of ancient manuscripts were erased 
again and again to supply materials for writing missals 
and legends of saints, so that scarcely a manuscript 
older than the eleventh century survives to-day. The 
price of books was consequently prohibitive : a Countess 


of Anjou paid two hundred sheep and five measures each 
of wheat, rye, and millet for a book of homilies ; and as 
late as the reign of Louis XI, when that king wished 
to borrow the medical works of Al-Razi from the 
library of Paris University, he deposited in pledge a 
quantity of plate, and was moreover obliged to procure 
a nobleman to join with him as surety in a deed 
binding him to restore it. The Arabs first adopted 
the manufacture of paper from silk as practised in 
China ; and silk paper was manufactured at Samarkand 
and Bokhara ; for silk they at first substituted 
cotton, Damasc paper, and later linen. The linen-paper 
industry was long a monopoly of Xativa, near Valencia, 
whence it was introduced into Catalonia and Provence, 
and later to Treviso and Padua. 1 

The first parts of Europe to emerge from barbarism 
were those most directly under the influence of Moorish 
culture : the Spanish Marches of Catalonia, Provence, 
and Sicily. 

It is an entirely erroneous conception which pictures 
the Moorish and Christian States of Spain as divided 
by intolerant hatred and incessant warfare. Spanish 
fanaticism is a later growth which mainly owed its intro- 
duction to foreigners. To those who lived in contact 
with the civilization of Islam it was hardly possible 
to entertain the conceptions fostered among remoter popu- 
lations by their priests, who represented the abhorred 
' infidel ' as savage fiends addicted to the worship of 
a hideous idol called Ma'hom. The gradual encroach- 
ment of the Spanish kingdoms over the Moorish dominions 
was as much the fruit of Muslim dissensions as of the 
ardour of the attack, and was brought about by crafty 
alliances with ambitious Moorish princes as much as by 
the sword. Friendly relations and intimate intercourse 
were the rule, not the exception. Since the days of 
Roncesvalles, when Moors and Christians had together 
defeated the marauding army of Charlemagne who, having 

1 We call paper by the name of Egyptian papyrus, but we measure, 
it by reams (Ar. rasma a parcel). 


crossed the Pyrenees at the invitation of Suleiman al- 
Arabi, a rebel against the first 'Abd al -Rahman, 
was returning laden with Christian booty and 
without having fought a Moor, Christians and Moors 
had constantly fought side by side and lent each 
other support in their complex internecine quarrels. 
Spanish princes marched at the head of Moorish troops 
lent to them by a Muslim ally to recover their domains, 
Moorish Emirs led Christian troops against their rivals. 
Companies of soldiers of fortune both Christian and 
Muslim hired themselves to masters of either religion. 
The most brilliant of Moorish generals, Al-Mansur, 
won his victories, and sacked the shrine of Com- 
postella, with Christian troops. The famous Rodrigo 
Diez de Bivar, transformed by legend into the 
doughty champion of the faith, was a condottiere 
who fought at least as often on the side of the 
Moors as on that of the Catholics, remained 
seven years in the service of the Emir of Saragossa, 
looted churches with as much gusto as mosques, usually 
dressed in Moorish costume, put his faith in a Moorish 
bodyguard, and is known to fame by the Arabic 
appellation of the Cid. It is no mere fiction, like the 
transmutation of the ignominious expedition of Charle- 
magne in Spain into an heroic epic, and its adornments 
with the magicians, knight-errants, dwarfs, dragons and 
enchanted palaces of Arabian romance, but an accurate 
tradition which represents in the tales and poems of 
chivalry, Christian and Moorish knights as freely con- 
sorting on friendly terms, joining together in jousts and 
tournaments and entertaining each other as honoured 
guests. Spanish and Moorish princes and their retinues 
of men of science and minstrels constantly resided at 
each other's courts. Christian rulers entrusted the 
education of their sons to Arabian tutors ; and when 
afflicted with some obstinate disorder betook themselves 
to Cordova to consult the most eminent physicians. Even 
between Christian ecclesiastics and Moorish princes there 
was friendly intercourse ; the translation of the Arab 
Almanack by Bishop Harib, and a history of the 
Franks written in Arabic by Bishop Gobmar of 


Gerona, were dedicated to Khallf Hakim. Inter- 
marriage, common among the people, was not in- 
frequent among the nobility, and even King Alfonso V 
of Leon gave his sister in marriage to Muhammad, King 
of Toledo, and Alfonso VI married Princess Zayda, 
the daughter of Ibn Abet, King of Seville. Al- 
Mansur married Teresa the daughter of Bermudo II, 
who, with the consent of her family, adopted her 
husband's faith. Moorish princes who acknowledged the 
suzerainty of the King of Castile sat in the Spanish Cortes. 

The lustre of Moorish elegance circulated unimpeded 
throughout the peninsula and the South of France. A 
shifting population of Mozarabians (Muslim Spaniards) 
and Jews passed continually from Andalusia to Catalonia 
and Languedoc ; the papal legate charged the Counts of 
Provence with harbouring '-' Moors, Jews, and all manner 
of infidels." Provence, where the Moors had dwelt 
nearly two hundred years, became united to the Spanish 
March, where the same language was spoken, when Ray- 
mond Berenger, Count of Barcelona, married Douce, the 
daughter of Gilbert of Gevaudan, the last scion of the 
Counts of Provence. There and then it was that the first 
efflorescence of European culture and elegance, which 
was so tragically blotted out in blood in the ghastly 
Albigensian Crusade, blossomed forth under the stimulus 
of Moorish civilization. 

Rude, illiterate, unwashed robber-barons gave place 
to men who delighted in poetry and music, and for- 
gathered in tournaments of song. Loose woollen gowns 
and leather jerkins were exchanged for close-fitting 
braided pourpoints, first known as gipons (Ar. jubba) 
and mantels of shimmering silk, the fashion for which 
gradually extended to Northern Europe. Women joined 
as equals, as in Moorish Spain, in the intellectual 
interests and artistic tastes of men. They discarded nun- 
like habits for fine apparel and jewels, developed a waist 
and rustled silken trains ; instead of wearing their hair 
in long plaits they did it up elegantly, a change which came 
to be known in the North as ' cheveux a la Provengale ' ; 
they wore embroidered and jewelled Persian tiaras of 
cendal (Ar. candal), which in the fourteenth century 



were exchanged for the sugar-loaf and horned head- 
dresses known as ' bonnets a la Syrienne.' An Arab 
author, Ibn Jobair, thus describes the appearance of the 
women of the period : ' ' They went forth clad in robes of 
silk the colour of gold, wrapped in elegant mantles, 
covered with many-coloured veils, shod with gilt shoes, 
laden with collars^ adorned with kohl and perfumed with 
attar, exactly in the costume of our Muslim ladies. " Such 
dalliance did not fail to call forth the shrill denuncia- 
tions of monks who, elsewhere supreme arbiters of life, 
slunk away in impotence before the indifference of the 
people and the sirventes of the poets. Song and 
music, which filled the rose-gardens of Andalusia, where 
every court rang with the sound of romances and quat- 
rains, where poets and musicians formed part of the 
retinue of every Moorish prince and every Emir, where 
skill in versification was counted an indispensable accom- 
plishment of every knight and every lady, spread to 
the adjacent lands of Castile, Catalonia and Provence. 
Stringed musical instruments, which are throughout the 
Middle Ages spoken of as 'mauresques,' were first intro- 
duced into Europe, the lute or laud (Ar. al f ud), the 
viol or violin, known at first as rubeb (Ar. rabab), the 
psaltery (Ar. santyr), ancestor of the piano, the zither, 
the tabor, and the guitar (Ar. kuitra). 

Exactly to what degree the Catalonian and Proven- 
gal poetry which was sung to the accompaniment of 
that Moorish music was moulded by that of Arab' 
Spain, is the subject of controversy among specialist 
scholars. What measure of prejudice may enter into 
the conclusions of those who pronounce the literature of 
Provence to have been " an extraordinary instance of 
spontaneous growth," may pardonably be suspected when 
the manner in which every other contribution of Arab 
culture has been treated by European scholarship, is borne 
in mind. There was a popular vernacular poetry in 
Provence as everywhere else, but only there did a 
courtly fashion for verse appear, distinct from popular 
song, and court -singers identical in function with the 
ruwah of Moorish courts. Rhyme of a rude kind had 
previously been used in monkish doggerel, but its 


elaborate pattern in Troubadour song, the assonant 
repetition of the same word in alternate lines, the 
research of ' difficult rhymes/ the tornada or envoi 
(invariably used in the ghazal), are traits of Arabic 
poetry, and of the Spanish school in particular, which 
invented the muwashdh and zajdl stanzas, and was 
as partial to husht, or learned obscurity, as Guiraut 
de Bornelh and so many Troubadours to the trobar 
clus. More even than its technical features, the new 
song reflected the somewhat euphuistic sentiment, the 
conventionalized erotics of Arabo -Persian poetry ; and 
Bernard de Ventadour and his fellow-poets who lament 
" DC la donha me dezesper" were, like their And&lusian 
brethren, ' sari al-ghawdni,' * victims of the fair.' 

Spanish and Provencal poetry is the birth-song of 
European literatures, awakening poetic echoes through- 
out Europe, from the Minnesingers of Germany to pre- 
Dantesque Italy, calling the ' vulgar tongues ' of the 
new Europe to literary life. The earlier Italian 
singers, Malaspina, Zorgi, Sordello, Lanfranc Cigala,, 
used the language as well as the prosody and 
style of the Provencal Troubadours. It was in Sicily 
at the Saracenized court of Frederic II, that the first 
Italian lyrics were produced in the native tongue il dolce 
stil nuovo of Guido delle Colonne, Jacopo Lentini and 
Pier delle Vigne. Dante hesitated long whether he 
should write his great poem in Latin ; his decision 
was determined by his admiration for the achievements 
of Provencal song, and from them his language, form 
and treatment were derived. Without the Spanish 
Moors no Troubadours, without the Troubadours no 

It was the conquest of Muslim Sicily and of Southern 
Italy by Norman mercenaries which moved William 
the Bastard to that of England. When after a struggle 
of thirty years the Muslim kingdom and its capital 
of Palermo, which rivalled Cordova itself in splendour 
and culture, at length submitted to the Hauteville adven- 
turers, it was only on condition of being granted full 


and equal rights and liberties; and so willingly were 
the terms carried out in letter and spirit, that Roger, 
the first King of the Two Sicilies, and his successors 
were, not without good ground, accused of being more 
Muslim than Christian. Sicily down to the last 
Hohenstaufen rulers remained a centre of Muslirrt 
culture and became the focus of awakening civilization. 
It was strange irony of fate I by Muslim troops that 
Pope Hildebrand was rescued from Castle S. Angelo 
when Henry IV. sought to wipe out the shame of 
Canossa. Not only were the troops, the religion, and 
to a large extent, the administration of the Muslim 
retained under the Normans and Suabians, but the posts 
of honour and command remained in Moorish hands. 
Their amyr al-bahr became in latinized form ammirati, 
or admirals ; their diwans, or government offices, became 
dohanas or douanes. Sicilian administration served as 
a model to Europe. The English^ fiscal system, like 
the name which it bears to-day the Exchequer, was 
derived from Muslim Sicily, whence Thomas Brun, who. 
served as Khaid under Roger II, introduced it when he 
transferred his services to our Henry II. Between 
Norman England and Norman Sicily there was con- 
tinuous intercourse through which many elements of 
Muslim culture came directly to distant Britain. Its 
great and far-reaching civilizing influence over barbaric 
Europe reached its height when the kingdom' passed 
into the hands of the great Italian-born Emperor 
Frederic II, whose radiant figure filled the Middle 
Ages with wonder. If the name of any European 
sovereign deserves to be specially associated with the 
redemption of Christendom from barbarism and ignor- 
ance, it is not that of Charlemagne, the travesty of 
whom in the character of a civilizer is a fulsome 
patriotic and ecclesiastical fiction, but that of the 
enlightened and enthusiastic ruler who adopted Saracenic 
civilization and did more than any sovereign to stimulate 
its diffusion. : \ 

His brilliant court where, under the stalactite roofs 
of Moorish halls, and amid oriental gardens adorned 
with murmuring fountains, and aviaries filled with rare 


birds, and menageries of strange animals, the gifts of 
friendly Khalifs, the professors of Arabian science 
forgathered as honoured guests, and discussed mathe- 
matical problems and questions of natural history;, 
where troubadours from Provence and Moorish 
minstrels sang to the music of lutes and tabors, and. 
inspired the first-fruits of Italian poetry; that wonder 
court, the seat of learning, refinement and beauty, so 
utterly contrasting with the gloomy, xush-littered halls 
of other European potentates, which swarmed with" 
monks and vermin, ignorance and superstition, was 
an object of astonishment and malicious rage. Among 
the accusations and denunciations that were hurled 
against Frederic, it was alleged with horror that he 
indulged in a daily bath even on Sundays. He 
established universities in Naples, Messina, Padua, 
renovated the old Byzantine medical school of Salerno 
in accordance with the advances of Arab medicine ; en- 
couraged by his patronage Plato of Tivoli and Lorenzo 
Fibonacci, the founders of European mathematics ; 
gathered Jewish and Arab scholars to undertake trans- 
lation of every procurable Arabic book ; sent his friend 
Michael Scotus to Cordova to obtain the latest works of 
Averroes, and distributed copies to every existing school . 

The course, not only of political history, but of 
European development and culture would doubtless have 
been very different had he, as was his dream, united 
Europe under a new empire with its capital in Italy. 
But the opposing forces of ecclesiastical power were 
as yet too strong. The popes moved heaven and earth' 
against the Hohenstaufen Emperor. Gregory IX stirred 
the Lombard cities to revolt, and rewarded and 
secured their loyalty by, setting up the Inquisition in 
their midst, and burning a few hundreds of their 
citizens pour encourager les autres. Mendicant monks 
penetrated into the very palace of the Emperor, 
threatened and bribed his closest friends, and thrust 
daggers and poison into their hands. 

The Church dreaded, no less than a united Italy 
and the loss of its temporal dominions, the new 
intellectual light which was being flashed across the 


darkness of Europe. Gregory declared Frederic to 
be the Antichrist. " That pestilent king/' wrote the 
Pope, " affirms that the world has been deceived by 
three impostors, Moses,. Jesus and Mahomet. He 
further proclaimis with a loud voice he dares to utter 
lies to the extent of saying] that none but fools can 
believe that the all-powerful Creator of the world was 
born of a virgin. He maintains the heresy that no 
man can be born without the concourse of a man and 
a woman. And he adds to those blasphemies that 
what is proved by the laws of things, and natural reason, 
is alone worthy of belief." The supporters of the 
Emperor throughout Italy were regarded as infidels, 
the name of Ghibelline was synonymous with 
' epicurean,' the current designation of the time for 
philosophic unbelievers; and when Guido Cavalcanti 
walked through the streets of Florence, absorbed in 
thought, the populace, Boccaccio tells us, whispered 
that " he Was thinking out arguments to prove that 
there is no God." The interdicts, the anathemas, the 
repeated excommunications of the Church, proved a 
more formidable weapon than even the swords of the 
Guelphs. Vanquished, baffled, betrayed, harassed, dis- 
heartened, embittered by long years of strife and daily 
peril, the Emperor craved for terms from his implacable 
foe; he agreed to depart from Italy on a crusade to 
Palestine; and betaking himself to Jerusalem, that 
strangest of crusaders was there received as an honoured 
friend by the Sultan Melik al-Kamil. As he walked 
arm in arm with the noble and learned Melik on the 
terrace of the mosque of 'Omar, discoursing of the 
latest advances in his beloved mathematical sciences, 
and of the folly of men who like darkness rather than 
light, he cast a scornful glance on the fanatical crowds 
that crawled on their knees before the gates of the 
Holy Sepulchre, and exclaimed, like Philip -Auguste, 
" Happy Sultan who knows no pope ! " As a token 
of his regard, Melik presented Mm with a marvellous 
clock, in the form of a large domed tent, in which the 
sun and moon were moved by mechanism, and made to 
rise and set, showing the hours. 


Christian and Saracen mingled their tears when the 
great Hohenstaufen ' che fa d'amor si degno ' was 
laid in the crypt of Monreale, leaving behind him the 
foundations of a power greater and more mighty than 
any empire he had dreamed of, a power that was one 
day to avenge him, and break the tyranny of pope and 
priest like a reed. 

A cause more immediate in its effects than physical 
science and deeper than romantic and poetical literature 
aroused the European mind from its lethargy. It has 
not in general been sufficiently emphasized that one of 
the chief agencies by which the dead hand of theological 
dogma was shaken off, was theology itself. " The naive 
mysticism and emotional' inconsistency of a religious 
creed," as Al-Ghazali remarked, " cannnot be brought to 
an intellectual focus without being dispelled." Already 
in the ninth and tenth centuries there Were sporadic 
signs of insubordination in Christendom. In England 
and Ireland, partly owing to the tradition established by 
Theodore, an Eastern monk with an ardent taste for 
literature, who, under Pope Valerian, had been appointed 
to the see of Canterbury, partly in consequence of the 
protection from the Gregorian obscurantism of the 
central Church government, afforded by isolation and 
remoteness, the status of culture among the monks of 
the Benedictine order and of St. Columba was distinctly 
higher than on the Continent. Egbert, Bede, Alcuin 
are examples of that pre-eminence. Not that it amounted 
to much; but by comparison with the almost complete 
illiteracy of other countries, the taste of the English, 
and, above all, of the Irish monks for Latin authors, and 
even an occasional, though rare, acquaintance with 
Greek, placed them upon a higher level. The con- 
sequences were not long in showing themselves : in 
reading Scripture and the early Fathers, they dared 
to exercise their mind. The Irish monks are spoken of 
as " sophia clari" and a chronicler describes the 
disturbing inroads of those herds of philosophers 
" philosophorum greges" -across the stormy sea. St. 


Boniface, while engaged in Christianizing Germany, 
encountered nothing but trouble with his Irish assistants. 
One Brother Verigil had the assurance to speak of 
4 antipodes ' ; Father Clement flatly scorned the authority 
of Jerome, Augustine, and Gregory, and even that of 
the Canon, and aired views about marriage with a 
deceased wife's sister, and the marriage of bishops, 
which made one's hair stand on end. Father Macarius 
was no better than a pantheist, and he set the devil loose 
in the monastery of Corbie, whence presently Father 
Ratram came forth denying the miracle of the 
Eucharist. But the boldest and greatest of those Irish 
disturbers of the Faith was John Erigena, a superior 
man, who had travelled in the East and knew! Greek, 
and who with great power and learning endorsed 
Ratram's view of the mass, accounting it a mere 
symbol, and expressed purely pantheistic views. There 
was no one in that day at all capable of even 
appreciating the magnitude of his heresies, much less of 
making any show of argumentative fight against the 
terrible Irishman. Theology merely consisted in the 
submissive reading of the Scriptures and the Latin 
Fathers, and had no weapon but their authority. The 
eucharistic heresy smouldered for over a century in 
the Benedictine monasteries until it was it was hoped 
adequately laid at rest by Archbishop Anselm of 
Canterbury. But that hope was cruelly shattered by 
Roscellin, who hanselled the new weapon of Aristotelian 
logic lately come from Spain in his fierce onslaught upon 
Anselm. One of the disciples of Roscellin was the 
great Peter Ab61arld, who with impassioned eloquence 
proclaimed not only that reason had a right to examine all 
authority, but that it was the supreme and 1 3ole authority. 
Exactly in what measure the earlier disputes of 
' pre -scholastic scholasticism ' were influenced by 
Muslim thought, we have little means of knowing with 
accuracy. The first systematic body of heretical doctrine 
within the Roman Church which resulted in widespread 
theological controversy, arose in Muslim Spain, and 
originated in the ninth century with Bishop Elipandus 
of Toledo, who infested with the Adoptionist heresy 


the clergy of the South of France. Muhammadan 
philosophy and theology had, we know, been carried to 
the Benedictine monasteries through the Jews, and the 
metropolitan house of Monte Cassino ; and Alvaro of 
Cordova tells us that many Christians in the ninth century 
*' studied the Muhamrnadan theologians and philoso- 
phers." not always, he adds significantly, " with a view to 
refuting them." Peter the Venerable, the Abbot of Cluny, 
with whom Abelard took refuge after his condemnation 
by the Council of Sens, lamented that, during his stay in 
Spain, he had seen troops of students from France, 
Germany, England, flocking to the Moorish seats of 
learning. In order to do something to stem the tide, he 
had the Kuran translated into Latin, naively remarking 
that the text of such-like ' inspired ' books constitutes 
their most effectual! refutation. The exact parallelism 
between Muslim and; Christian theological controversy 
is too close to be accounted for by similarity of 
situations, and the coincidences are too fundamental 
and numerous to be accepted as no more than 
coincidences. A single metaphysical qui'bble raised in 
the Isagogize of Porphyry concerning ' universals ' 
supplied the cardinal formula about which the whole 
edifice of controversial thought both in Islam and 
Christendom was raised. The same questions, the same 
issues which occupied the theological schools of 
Damascus, were after an interval of a century repeated 
in identical terms in those of Paris. 

The culture of the courts of Damascus and Baghdad 
had been eyed askance by the zealots of Islam; and 
when Al-Mamun established his famous school of trans- 
lators, the Dar al-Hikmet or ' Home of Science,' he 
had to placate the pietist conscience by assurances that 
it was merely a college of household physicians. To 
the Muslim faithful and their 'Ulama, the whole cultural 
movement remained from first to last a thing accursed; 
Harun and Al-Mamun had sold their souls ; and in 
Moorish Spain there were constant outbursts of fanatic 
zeal in which the books of science were consigned to 
the flames. The attitude of religious ardour towards 
intellectual culture was precisely the same in the Muslim 


as in the Christian world. Only there Was this differ- 
ence, that in the former it was the intellectuals 
and heretics who for a time held the whip -hand of 
power; the pious had perforce to rest content with 
sour looks and suppressed 1 growls, and to Wait patiently 
until the Turk, the Berber, and the Spaniard came to 
their assistance, and plunged Islam back into the purity 
of faith and the darkness and ignorance of barbarism. 
If, while in the tenth century European aspirants to 
knowledge sought the schools of the learned Moors, in 
the twentieth century Professor Westermarck journeys 
to Morocco to study the ways of primitive barbarism, 
it is because in the two worlds the contest between light 
and darkness had opposite issues; in the one case 
dogma was defeated by rational thought, in the other it 
prevailed over it. 

Although the intellectual energy of the Arabs 
employed itself by preference with objective mathe- 
matical and scientific pursuits, it was inevitable that 
it should be applied to the interpretation of religion. 
From their Nestorian teachers and from Galen they 
derived a profound veneration for Aristotle, whose orderly 
and encyclopedic cast of mind chimed with their dispo- 
sition. He was '' al-^elahi^ the ' divine ' Aristotle, 
the philosopher, and pilgrimages were made to his 
supposed tomb in Palermo as to the shrine of a saint. 
The Arab apiplied his terminology, metaphysical ideas 
and classifications, and logical method to the endeavour 
to elucidate, making more definite and precise, reducing 
to a rational order, to a ' science,' the dogmas of their 
religion. A maze-like structure arose out of the subtle 
disputations of theology, al-katan, the * science of the 
Word.' And intellectual thought set about the endless 
task of * reconciling ' religious dogma and rational 
thought. Al-Farabi paraphrased Aristotle, enumerated 
the principles of ' being,' elaborated the doctrine a 
the double aspects of the intellect and the question of 
universals. Ibn Sina sought, upon the basis of Farabi's 
work, to spiritualize the naturalism 1 of Aristotle by a 
free admixture of mystic neo-Platonism derived from 
Jewish and Alexandrian sources. Others rationalized the 


mysteries of the faith into pantheism; and Ibn Roschd 
(Averroes), the last of the Arabic philosophers, pro- 
claimed the unity of the intellect, and put forth the 
fatal solution of ' double truth/ that a thing may be 
true in theology and false in science or, as Professor 
Bury has aptly expressed it, that a thing may be true 
in the kitchen but false in the drawing-room. 

The whole logomachy passed bodily into Christendom. 
The catchwords, disputes, vexed questions, methods, 
systems, conceptions, heresies, apologetics and irenics, 
were transferred from the mosques to the Sorbonne. 
The deification of Aristotle, introduced by the Arabs, 
together with his works, which had previously only 
been known in meagre fragments in Cassiodorus, 
Capella, and Boethius, stood at first for the assertion of 
the rights of reason. The reading of his works, and 
of the Arabian commentaries, was in Paris forbidden. 

It soon, however, became apparent to the defenders 
of orthodoxy that their original principle that the 
methods of rational thought must not be applied to 
religious dogma condemned them to an unequal fight. 
They accordingly abandoned it, and reversed their policy. 
It was determined to fight intellectual insubordination 
with its own weapons, to enlist Aristotle in the cause 
of faith. The canonization of Aristotle was the first 
of the long series of surrenders of theology to rational 
thought. The Dominicans devoted themselves to the 
task of harmonizing ' the philosopher ' with religion. 
It had already been performed for them; and all that 
Albertus Magnus, Thomas Aquinas, both proficient in 
Arabic literature the former was as famous as an 
alchemist as a theologian, and the latter had been one 
of the earliest pupils in Frederic II 's university of 
Naples had to do, w'as to reproduce the arguments, 
formulas, and methods of Ibn Sina and his predecessors 
in the ' reconciliation of reason and religion/ Al-Farabi 
and Al-Kindi. They were met by their antagonists wi h 
the bolder logic of " the impious and thrice-accursed " 

The banners under which the battles of intellectual 
progress have been fought have been subject to strange 


mutations. The same Muslim infidel, Ib'n Sina, furnished 
both the weft of the Tomistic, or official philosophy 
of the Catholic Church, and the text-book of the 
medical schools ; nurtured the Vatican and the Holy- 
Office with one hand, and Galileo with the other. ;We 
are accustomed to think of Aristotelian authority andi 
of * the schools ' as the foes against which the 
European intellect had to win its victory. When 
science and modern thought at last unfolded their wings 
with Galileo and 1 Descartes, it was by the overthrow 
of Aristotle and his authority that that first liberation 
was marked. But at an earlier stage it was those 
same authorities which the Arabs had transmitted to 
Europe, it was that very Aristotle, which had stood 
for intellectual freedom, for reason against obscurantism 
and mysticism. Aristotle was the shield under which 
in the universities and the medical schools, thought 
and science were brooding and maturing. -When the 
humanists of the Renaissance, when Petrarch, when 
Erasmus inveighed against Aristotle and Averroes, it 
was not dogmatism or authority which roused their 
ire, but science, ' impiety,' ' materialism.' They were 
occupying the same position as the opponents of 
Copernicus, of Darwin, of that science whose chrysalis 
was wrapped in the ' authorities ' of the Arabs. 

Scholasticism, like Greek Sophism, is one of those 
vanquished things whose name has been indelibly 
branded by the triumph of its opponents. Neverthe- 
less those argumentative contests which seem to us 
absurd and unintelligible, were the first stirrings of 
the mind in Europe after the death-like trance and 
Cimmerian darkness that went before. In the hair- 
splitting subtleties and grotesque disputes of the schools, 
the weapons were tempered that were to arm the human 
mind for the battles of its liberation and triumph. ' To 
the Schoolmen," J. S. Mill rightly observes, "we owe 
whatever accuracy of thought, and lucidity of logic, 
we can boast." We may laugh at some of the problems 
on which the scholastic disputants exercised their wit 
" whether divine essence engendered the Father, or 
was engendered by the Father; whether attributes or 


substance 'determine persons " (Beter Lombard), or 
"whether the Holy Ghost appeared as a real dove; 
whether Adam and Eve had navels ; whether Christ 
took any clothes with him to heaven " (Thomas 
Aquinas) ; l but the laugh would not be altogether on 
our side if some of the paralogisms which sometimes 
pass to-day as arguments with untrained and slovenly 
thinkers, could be submitted to the mediaeval worshippers 
of Aristotle. ' Formal logic ' is pedantic, and the 
syllogism is not the sum of rational method; but 
they have supplied a very beneficent and useful 
training. And it is by passing through the mill of t 
scholasticism that the European mind has acquired that ) 
appreciation of accuracy, that habit of precision, that / 
care in the use and definition of words, that protective/ 
immunity against plausible fallacies, that indisposition 
to being put off with irrelevant and lofty phrases, which, 
have been its strength, and to which it owes its growth' 
and achievements. 

And it (was that unflinching application of logic which 
in the days of Roscellin and Abelard had struck terror 
in the champions of dogma and tradition, which ultimately, 
shook off their intellectual tyranny, in spite of their 
attemtpt to press the two-edged weapon into their own 
defence ; and which produced Roger Bacon and William 
of Occam, who dealt the death-blow to the phantasms 
of dogmatic abstraction, and pointed to the methods of 
accurate observation, inquiry, experiment, and mathe- 
matical analysis, introduced into the World by Arabian 
science, as the basis of rational judgment and knowledge. ^ 

By the end of the thirteenth century, among' the 
propositions which the Paris Sorfoonne was called upon 
to censure, we find the following : " The discourses 
of theologians are founded on fables " ; M True 
knowledge is made impossible by theology"; "The 
Christian religion is an obstacle to education." 

The spell which had held the human mind captive 
during the Dark Ages was broken for ever. 

1 It is, of course, on the orthodox or "realist" side of 
scholasticism that such speculative gems are to be met. 



IT is in the first three centuries of thq preisent millennium 
that the rebirth of Europe took place. The term 
1 Renaissance ' applied to the Italian and Italianate 
culture of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries is a 
misnomer stamped upon our notions by the traditions of 
that culture itself. The gaudier splendour of European 
life at that epoch was the outspreading of overblown 
blossoms whose buds the previous centuries had called 
to life and unfolded. To that antecedent impulse it 
owed its worth . The invention of printing, to a far 
greater extent than the study of ancient literature, 
strengthened and accelerated the process. 

The paramount part played by Arab culture in the 
awakening of Europe, on which I have dwelt at some 
length proportionate to the grossness and insistence of 
current misrepresentation it would be difficult sto ex- 
aggerate. But there is no need to magnify the intrinsic 
worth and quality of that culture. Admirable as was 
that quality, and supremely momentous as its action 
and influence proved, it did not possess the principle 
of indefinite development and growth. Had it not 
succumbed to fanaticism it is doubtful whether it would 
have pursued a career of prolonged progress. Europe, 
making use of what it acquired from Islam, outstripped 
it, as Greece had surpassed the oriental cultures whence 
hers was derived. There was in point of fact something, 
some particular quality in the European mind which 
Islam lacked. Arabized knowledge in passing into 
Europe, however barbaric, became European, western, 
acquired some new virtue which vitalized and fertilized 
it. That something, that quality of the European mind, 
is not an intangible and undefinable racial mystery. 


It is a quite definite fact. It is nothing 1 else than its 
geniture and parentage from the clear and discursive spirit 
of Greece. The European mind is what it is, differs 
from the East and Islam, in that it has Greece and 
Rome at its back. That is the supreme fact in its 
constitution and quality. The Greek spirit, its emanci- 
pation, its fetterless freedom, its irrepressible curiosity, 
its secularism, its criticism, its spontaneous, unimpeded 
use in the face of all facts and situations of human 
reason pure and simple, that is what has made the 
western world possible. And Europe has grown because 
it issued out of that ' antiquity ' which was' the 
civilization of the Greek mind ; and even in the dark- 
ness of degradation and deepest depth of ruin, the dust 
of that world preserved, however faint, some element 
of its intrinsic quality. 

' Renaissance ' humanism was, then, in its form 
representative of that paramount fact. I say ' repre- 
sentative,' no more ; for it neither initiated, nor deter- 
mined, nor in any essential degree established its 
action. Roman, and subsequently Greek literature, were 
sought and cherished before the rise of Italian humanism 
and the advent of Greek refugees. The patriotic 
enthusiasm which looked back upon the only national 
literature, the only great European literature then exist- 
ing, and saw in its ' revival ' and cultivation the only, 
issue out of the dark sterility of the times, existed in 
Italy even before Petrarch. Vilgardus of Ravenna 
early in the twelfth century paid to the Latin poets 
the same extravagant and superstitious worship as the 
humanist idolaters of the Renaissance. Those studies 
extended in the same measure as all other intellectual 
activities. But that quality and influence of which I 
have just spoken, is in truth something much deeper, 
and more subtle than any effect of book study. It 
lies in the very genesis and constitution of Europe, in 
its language, its forms of thought, its memory, its whole 
mentality. Study of ancient literature is but a small 
and accessory part of it, its roots lie much deeper in 


the mental structure, which even in the me.diaevlal Church 
and law and language derived from Greece. 

The humanism of the Renaissance gave a new impetus 
to the perusal of the only secular literature then existing, 
and thus helped to establish the dominion of secular 
thought in the modern world. The republished works 
of Greece and Rome did not bring life and power 
by virtue of their specific contents, by virtue of any 
particular contribution to knowledge or ideas, of any 
concrete * wisdom/ or any forgotten and regenerating 
inspiration which they transmitted, but purely and simply 
by helping, in virtue of their secular character, to sever 
the bonds which had held the human mind fettered in 
the bolgia of ecclesiastical thought. 

But everything that can ungrudgingly be set to the 
credit of ' Renaissanqe ' humanism is more than counter- 
weighed by influences the most baneful and pernicious, 
which it exercised on the development of Europe. 

"It may be doubted," justly remarks an historian, 1 
" whether the human mind has gained by ceasing to 
develop along the path upon which it had been set 
during the Middle Ages, and by suffering that revolution 
which is called the ' Renaissance.' ' iWUiile it crowned 
the antecedent growth of the twelfth and thirteenth 
centuries, the Italian Renaissance was in reality a phase 
and manifestation of essential rottenness and decay. It 
was in intrinsic respects as much' a set-back and a falling 
off, as the rule of the petty usurpers whose aulic influence 
fostered the literary vendors of flattery and ' immor- 
tality ' was a falling off from the vitality and spirit of 
the communes and republics they smothered. Availing 
itself of the powers which a healthier and more creative 
age had developed, it wasted and prostituted them and 
remained essentially sterile. 

The literature and thought of Greece and Rome are 

among the greatest, most glorious, and most momentous 

achievements of humanity. But Renaissance humanism 

and its far-reaching effects afford a conspicuous illustra- 

1 Wahl, in Lavisse et Rambaud, Hist. G4nerale t 


tion of the truth that no matter howi excellent a thing may, 
be in itself, its influence is rendered wholly pernicious 
from the moment that it becomes an object of idolatry, 
and is invested with a sacred and superstitious authority. 
Instead of being vitalizing and inspiring it becomes 
deadly and paralysing. The * ancients ' and what was 
conceived by the humanists to be ancient taste were 
by them set up as idols. Lamps were set alight 
before the bust of Plato ; Alfonso of Naples sent 
Beccarelli to Padua to beg for an arm-bone of Livy. 
The cult of the ' antique ' became a delirious and 
paralysing superstition . A spirit of intellectual parasitism 
more abject than that of the schoolmen for the ipsissima 
verba of Aristotle, extended! a canonical authority to all 
the newly consecrated ' classics.' Plato, or rather a 
mystic farrago of Neo-Platonism, supplanted Aristotelian 
authority. So completely was intellect dulled by slavish 
deference that it was scarcely capable of even discerning 
the incompatibilities between the authorities it wor- 
shipped. Intellectual views, theories, ideas, thoughts, 
information, were indeed of little or no concern to the 
pedants of Italian humanism. They cared for none 
of those things ; the only things that mattered, the 
things of real importance, the supreme object of intel- 
lectual interest and of culture, were words, syntax, style. 
It was not as thinkers, as creators, as cogitating beings 
that the * classics ' were canonized and worshipped and 
their authority set up, it was simply and solely as 
dealers in words and periods. The Greeks had 
been concerned with ideas, the Arabs and Arabists 
with facts, the pedants of the Renaissance were con- 
cerned with' words. 

It had been the very plausible ideal of those who in 
ages of semi -darkness turned, like Petrarch, to the litera- 
ture of Rome, ta revive the culture which had existed 1 
in the past and; existed no longer, while the embrya 
of a new culture Was only then struggling into feeblje, 
though healthy life. They were inspired by the wish 
to bring back the glories of Rome ; what they brought 
back was the palsy of its dotage. The 'revival of learn- 
ing ' was the revival of pedantry. The spirit of the 



4 culture ' that was set up by the humanists was precisely 
that of their teachers, the Byzantines round whom they 
crowded to learn Greek ; it had in it as much of the 
elements of progress and life as that culture which had 
for ten centuries rotted in its mummy cloths on the 
Bosporus. It very nearly succeeded in smothering the 
young life of the European intellect which was moving 
in the new world. 

Never, except in the last phases of Rome and in 
the Byzantine Empire, have the contents of the human 
mind been so completely displaced and supplanted by 
borrowed verbal vacuities and hollow presentments of 
ideas. Of rational thought, of even a tendency towards 
a critical and independent attitude, there is among the 
pundits of Italian learning in the fifteenth and sixteenth 
centuries hardly a trace. Whatever serious intellectual 
activity existed in Italy during those two centuries, in 
men like Telesio, Giordano Bruno, Campanella, Pompo- 
nazzi, stood apart from the humanistic movement, had 
no connection with it, and, except as regards the 
last, exercised no influence. Alone among the Italian 
humanists, Lodovico Valla, who was thought cold 
and aloof, regarded Latin and Greek scholarship as 
means to greater ends, and he mayj be said to 
have initiated historical criticism 1 by] his exposure 
of the frauds and forgeries the decretals, the 
pseudo-Dyonisius, the donation of Constantine, the 
Apostles' Creed which constituted the credentials of 
the Catholic Church. The greatest mind 1 of all brooded 
in complete silence and solitude ; "I am no humanist," 
declared Leonardo da Vinci. 

But one may look in vain among the great lights 
of the time, in Poliziano, Ficino, Poggio Bracciolini, 
Filelfo, for a spark of spontaneous thought. Nothing 
can match the utter intellectual impotence and sterility, 
the crass stupidity there is no other word for it of 
the authors of that strange ' revival of learning,' who 
prided themselves upon their Latin style and Greek 
hexameters, and made the great discovery that what 
they have dubbed ' scholarship ' is the supreme 
goal of the human intellect. They were arid pedants, 


grammarians, translators, imitators in whom' all faculty 
for thought had become atrophied. Imitation, more 
imitation, and still cloiser imitation was for them 
the highest ideal. Truth of thought or justice of 
feeling had no place in their scheme of mind, and 
the only quality which they could conceive as worthy 
of endeavour and of appreciation was an aping faculty 
for Ciceronian periods and Platonic sentiments. The 
works of Marsilio Ficino, the leader of the Florentine 
Academy, are a wretched hotch-potch of mystic rubbish 
beside which the writings of Madame Blavatsky are 
products of intelligence. Covered with amulets and 
charms, " the greatest philosopher of the age " went 
abroad in fear of the evil eye and of ubiquitous goblins 
and sprites. And that intellectual level was representa- 
tive of that of his contemporaries. The controversies 
conducted with ponderous classical elegancies and 
scurrilous personal vituperation between Poggio and 
Filelfo, are more grotesque than the most puerile 
scholastic disputations. The * divine ' Poliziano reached 
at a jump the most fulsome heights of that charming 
literary style which the * Renaissance ' has bequeathed 
as a curse to succeeding ages. He cannot speak of 
Florence, but must say * the city of Sylla ' ; he cannot 
mention that some one is ill, but must needs describe 
the ' Goddess of Fever ' sitting at his bedside. Pico 
della Mirandola wrote a tract against astrology, and 
one might imagine that he was moved by some 
rationalistic impulse ; but the absorbing interest of that 
champion of common sense lay in the Cabala, and his 
influence on Erasmus, Reuchlin, Colet, and More, was 
that of the morbid fascination which vapid mysticism 
exercises . 

The religious scepticism of the later Italian Renais- 
sance was not the outcome of any critical process of 
thought, but of entire lack of mental earnestness. The 
contempt of religion began with the clergy themselves. 
In secure and undisputed possession of all their claims 
and powers, they had come to treat their business overtly 
as one of pure and undisguised exploitation. What 
men thought was of no account to them so long as 


the powers and revenues of the Church remained secure. 
Of dogmatic zeal and persecuting spirit there was little 
in the [higher Italian clergy. They smiled on a declared 
atheist as long as he paid his Church dues and was 
not an earnest propagandist. Nicholas V appointed 
Valla to a post at his court ; Leo X invited Pomponazzi 
to discourse before him on the mortality of the soul ; 
and he and his advisers allowed Luther to gain time 
and ground through their avowed indifference to the 
theological issue. Only when political power was at 
stake did heresy call forth severity. And the courtly 
scepticism of . the Renaissance, while it laughed at 
dogmas and ridiculed monks, was perfectly loyal to 
the Church as a social and political institution. Men 
like Machiavelli who treated religious dogma with 
scepticism and ridicule, did not do so because of any; 
shock to their intellectual conscience. They were utterly 
devoid of such a sense. To the relation between dogma 
and truth they were absolutely indifferent. The passion 
for truth, the mark of all real intellectual activity, even 
the most languid interest in abstract truth, are things 
conspicuous by their absence in the Italian mind of 
the Renaissance. It believed as little in reason as 
it did in inspiration, and in general assumed religion to 
be an expedient, and, on the whole, beneficent, and even 
necessary institution ; at the worst a necessary evil. That 
there is any connection between truth and what is 
practically desirable and expedient, is an idea which' 
was not thought of. That good can come out of a 
lie was never doubted. The practical concern of the 
Italian intellect was not to distinguish between truth and 
falsehood, but between the respective expediency and 
desirability of various lies. 

Thus the pseudo -scepticism of the Italian Renaissance 
never approached to anything like consistency. It was 
quite common for the commonplaces of sceptical ridi- 
cule to be cbmbined with a practical belief in the essential 
doctrine on which the power of the Church was founded 
fear of hell. Lorenzo de' Medici scoffed as freely as 
any one, yet cringed in terror on his death-bed, and 
sought absolution fr_orrj Savonarola, -the only priest he 


knew who was not a hypocrite." Even the grossest 
popular superstition was by no means incompatible with 
that superficial scepticism-; Machiavelli himself believed 
in ghosts. There is no length of incongruity to which 
that worthless and irrational scepticism could not pro- 
ceed. Aretino " che dlsse mat d'ognun JuorchZ di Dio, 
scusandosi col dir ' Non lo conosco, ' composed 
manuals of devo,tion. Blaspherny, like murder and 
treachery, was the outcome of moral unscrupulous- 
ness, and absolution was sought for the one as for the 
other. The writers of the Cinquecento pass by a quite 
natural transition from religious satire to prayer. Pulci, 
in whose poem gastronomical parodies of the Credo 
alternate with hymns to the Madonna, may by his tone 
seem a distant progenitor of Voltaire-; but the re- 
semblance is only superficial. Mocking, sco fling Voltaire 
was in grim and deadly earnest", the sceptics of the 
Italian Renaissance never were. 

In France, in Germany, in England the same tedious 
foolery went on as in Italy. Latin verses and Sapphic 
odes, epistles spun of platitudes and commonplaces were 
profusely exchanged ; dedications, prefaces, testimonies 
of learning in Latin verse and prose, were com- 
posed for each other by the members of a mutual 
admiration society in which every scribbler of sham 
Latin verses was a ' modern Horace/ and every com- 
piler of a compendium combined * the elegance of Sallust 
with the felicity of Livy,' exercises diversified by pro- 
longed controversies conducted for the entertainment of 
the ' republic of letters ' and adorned with the amenities 
and ponderous JaceticB of classical billingsgate, in 
which each vir doctissimus became aslnus ignarus. 

But in the northern lands humanism did assume a 
more serious complexion than in Italy, tending in general 
to theology. It thus became mostly associated with 
the Reformation initiated by Friar Luther, who de- 
nounced in the same elegant terms both Rome and 
reason" Die Verfluchte Huhre Vernunft" In the 
European world, flooded for the first time with books 


by the multiplying press, thought circulated and fer- 
mented, and the revival of thought which rapidly super- 
seded the outlook of the ancient world proceeded in 
spite of the * revival of learning ' and the ' reformation 
of religion.* 

But in the land where it swayed unmodified the pro- 
ducts of the humanistic movement were intellectual death 
and corruption. The blight of mere artificial imitative - 
ness fastened on men's minds, and the Italian intellect 
never fully recovered from the hollow and false spirit 
of the Renaissance. " This Was it which damped 
the glory of Italian wits, that nothing had been 
written there now these many years but flattery and 

Torrents of nonsense have been and are still daily 
gushed forth about the Italian Renaissance. The charm 
of the period in a land which lay closer to the old 
springs of culture, that efflorescing brilliancy and pagan 
opulence of artistic production which still affectionately 
holds us, were not the fruit of humanism, but of the 
time when the Italian mind was stimulated by the culture 
of the Moors and of Provence, when the Italian spirit 
was stirred to vigorous life in the struggle for freedom 
against Pope, Emperor and feudal lords. It was the 
age which produced Dante and Giotto and brought to 
life Italian art and literature. Their resources were 
deliberately used as a political means of power and 
diversion by the ambition of the princes who crushed 
liberty, and the course of their development, which had 
begun in freedom and vital energy,, though borne onward 
for a short time by the initial impulse, after they had 
become the creatures of aulic patronage, was one of 
rapid parabolic decline. Italy has produced no second 
Dante. No Italian poet after him can be named in the 
same breath. Instead of the Divine Comedy the 
Renaissance produced Sannazaro's Arcadia. Not only 
did the Italian Renaissance produce no Dante, it was 
absolutely incapable of appreciating him ; it set him 
aside and disparaged him, " banished him," in the words 
of one of the humanists of the time, " from 1 the assemblies 
of the learned and made him over to wool -carders and 


bakers." Latin was once more restored to the position 
of literary language and the growth of Italian literature 
stamped down. This had already been the ideal of 
Petrarch, the father of humanism, who chiefly prided' 
himself on his Latin epic, the Africa ; and Boccaccio, 
though infinitely superior to all his successors, shows 
already in his weakness for Ciceronian ' elegance ' in his 
Italian writing the poisonous imitative spirit which was 
to kill off so much of native genius ; and he apologizes 
for having written " things in the vulgar tongue fit for 
the ears of the populace." From that time on, while 
humanism reigned supreme, Italian literature sinks into 
mellifluous euphuisms, elegant conceits, and sugary 
ornateness, till in the seventeenth century it becomes 
a by -word for hollow bombast and turgid absurdity 
" flattery and fustian." Before its final sinking into 
utter degradation we have, it is true, a Tasso and an 
Ariosto who charm by the sonorous suavity of the verbal 
music in which their sensuous fancy is clothed . But you 
may search their pages in vain for a character or a 
thought. And the manner in which their felicitous talent 
was appreciated by their princely patrons of culture is 
sufficiently well known. Tasso was cast in prison, and 
Ariosto 's florid adulation was by Cardinal d'Este re-^ 
ceived with the words, " Dove diavolo, Messer Lodovico, 
avete trovate tutte queste corbetlerie? " 

Italian painting, which quickly grew in technique 
through the Lippis and Masaccio, was at its technical 
height under Raphael already stricken with the canker 
of mawkish grace and artificial ornateness, and sank 
with him into rapid degradation and liollow formalism. 
Only in such men as were least tainted with the spirit 
of the times, in whom something of the proud indepen- 
dence and enthusiasm of an earlier age survived, in 
Leonardo, Michel -Angelo, and the Venetians, whose mind 
dwelt outside the current of courtly elegance and 
modish classicism, was true creative power "manifested. 
And their faults were proportionate to the pestilent 
influence upon them of prevalent taste, from which not 
even Leonardo or Michel -Angelo could altogether escape. 

It was indeed a precious revival of ' taste ' and 


of " appreciation for antiquity ' which 1 inspired its 
patrons and arbiters, the papal princes, to tear down 
the venerable historic basilica of St. Peter's, and set 
Michel-Angelo and Raphael quarrying the sacred remains 
of the Roman Forum in order to erect them into that 
pile of overgrown hideousness on the Vatican hill! 

Immediately its transmitted impulse was spent the 
culture of classical humanism resolved itself into its 
elements, and issued in the basest degradation of litera- 
ture and art which the world has looked upon barroque 
classicism and rococo taste. If it has contributed any 
spark to the fire which lit the new life of Europe, 
almost everything that is base and false in the ideals 
and tastes which for nigh three centuries have oppressed 
it and warped its growth, is likewise to be traced to 
Renaissance humanism. That pestilent pseudo -classic 
' elegance * which infested Europe during the seven- 
teenth and eighteenth centuries, that cold blight which 
poisoned the literature of France in the critical period 
of its growth and its influence, so that its men of talent 
lay palsied for two centuries gibbering about * Cupid's 
darts, 1 * the Graces,'. ** the Muses,' and ' divine 
Chloe ' ; that corruption which degraded the tongue 
of Villon and Rabelais into that of Vauvenargues and 
the H6tel Rambouillet, Elizabethan English into that 
of Addison and Pope ; that deformity of literary ideals 
which praised Racine and scorned Shakespeare ; that 
baseness and blindness which covered Europe with 
perruques allongtes, Wren architecture, ' artificial ruins,' 
and * classic * colonnades, with furbelowed Romans 
striking Raphaelesque attitudes with outspread fingers, 
and goddesses sprawling on clouds, and of which all 
that is artistically mean and hideous in the modern 
world is the outcome ; the unspeakable absurdity in 
notions of polite education which weighs to this day 
upon the most vital functions of our culture and life- 
all those things are the legacy of Italian humanism. 
We owe, if nothing else, to Ruskin that he first boldly 
exposed the contemptible worthlessness of that Renais- 
sance taste whose tyrannous influence so blinded our 
grandfathers that even a Goethe could go into ecstasies 


over the sugary counterfeits of Palladio and pass by 
the genuine glories of Italian Gothic, snatch at the tinsel 
and cast aside the gold. That baseness is but the 
reflection in art of the imitative artificiality and unreality 
in which the pedantry of humanism moved, and which 
utterly extinguished in it every impulse of rational and 
critical thought. 



IN the motley, multifarious world of Europe every form 
ever assumed by ruling power was represented in its 
full vigour. A theocratic power more strongly organized 
than any the East had seen, tmore untransactingly jealous 1 
of its claims to control over men's affairs, their lives, 
their thoughts, seemed at first to tower over all, and 
aimed in fact at that absolute supremacy which the 
Church of Hildebrand and Benedict VIII regarded as 
the logical right of its divine authority. Beside it stood 
the power of the kings. The barbaric tribes had origi- 
nally no kings. The style was assumed by the war- 
lords who led them in their conflicts with Rome and 
raised their kingdoms on its ruins, in imitation of that 
of its emperors. The Church sought to set up an actual 
successor to the Roman emperors of the West, who, 
as her mandatory and secular arm, should wield temporal 
power over Christendom. But a strong central govern- 
ment was impossible in barbaric Europe. The actual 
temporal rulers were the feudal chiefs, dukes, counts, 
barons, margraves, or whatever they might call them- 
selves, among whom Europe was parcelled out into 
domains varying in size from the few acres round their 
castles to provinces as large as kingdoms; and who, 
besides the actual possession of the soil, exercised 
unrestrained arbitrary power over its inhabitants as their 
villeins and serfs. The manner in which barbarism 
was first broken by commerce with the civilization of 
Islam, gave rise to a fourth form 1 of power, that of 
the traders, the power of money. They were enabled 
to defy other powers, to wring charters from them, to 

set up communes. Their example was followed every - 



where in Europe ; towns purchased home -rule for cash 
from barons rendered penurious by their own devasta- 
tions, by the crusades, from kings, from emperors. A 
lively trade was driven in charters, to the intense disgust 
and indignation of the more powerfulf-nobles and bishops, 
who cried that the foundations of society were being 
sapped by those " execrable inventions by which," in 
the words of Abbot Guilb'ert of Nogent, " contrary to 
law and justice, slaves withdrew from 1 the obedience 
which they owed to their masters." 

The inevitable result of that multiplicity of rival 
powers was a series of long and desperate conflicts 
aniong them all . Popes and emperors, kings and priests, 
feudal lords and kings, kings and emperors, communes, 
barons and popes, all promptly flew at one another's 
throats, covered Europe with pikes and battlements, and 
filled its annals with battles and blood. Europe, though 
it bled, profited by the quarrels of its masters ; all of 
them "ggjTweakened . It was the obvious policy of each 
to play off its less influential against its stronger rivals. 
Thus the Church set up and consolidated the Lombard 
communes against the emperors ; the emperors and 
kings set up communes and bishoprics and abbots as 
a check against the barons ; the English barons played 
off the commons against the kings, and the kings in 
turn played them off against the barons. The moneyed 
burghers in general profited, and when at last they had 
so waxed in power as to threaten and defy kings, nobles 
and priests, they identified themselves with the power- 
less, and called themselves * the people.* 

But the contests and death -grapples of rival power- 
holders gradually merged into a new situation. The 
policy of combination and alliances among them gradu- 
ally developed. At first the power of the central govern- 
ment of the kings was extremely small. Dukes, counts 
who were supposed to hold their lands of the king 
as fiefs, ruled over far larger domains, flouted his 
authority, and carried on predatory wars with their 
neighbours on their own account, or joined with foreign 
invaders, as it suited them. But the weaker lords 
naturally appealed to the king for protection, and more 


power gathered round him. It was found that, instead 
of fighting private wars on one's own account, it was 
quite as advantageous to lend one's serfs and vassals 
to fight in the king's wars, and to share the spoils in the 
form of royal favours and gifts ; hence the phrase * to 
fight for king and country.' Henry VIII consolidated 
Tudor despotism ; by giving his nobles the Church -lands 
to loot. In France, in Spain the central power gradually 
grew and extended by marriage -alliances, conquests and 
purchases ; in England it had been unified by the 
Norman Conquest-; Italy was kept fragmented by the 
Balance of Power maintained by the Pope, and Germany 
by the power of the elector princes and bishops. The 
Church', having utterly weakened the terrible emperors 
whom it had so thoughtlessly helped to set up, found 
it to be to its interest to make common Cause and identify 
itself with all kings. The advantage was mutual. The 
kings received their crowns from 1 priests and became 
the anointed of Godi, the representatives of Divine power, 
sacred persons that could do no wrong, answerable to 
God only, and the people were taught the duty of 
submission to the Divine Right of kingly power. Even 
the burghers, after many desperate struggles against 
other powers, found it advantageous to range themselves 
on their side, and to make common cause with king and 
noble and Church. In England, "this fastness built 
by Nature for herself Against infection and the hand 
of war ; This precious stone, set in the silver sea, Which 
serves it in the office of a wall Against the envy of 
less happier lands," large armies were unnecessary for 
defensive purposes, and therefore expensive. For the 
purposes of the king's offensive wars money had con- 
stantly to be obtained, and the burghers who held the 
purse had therefore to be treated with consideration. 
The parliament of embarrassed and open-mouthed 
burghers which Simon de Montfort, the son of the 
leader of the Albigensian crusade, had set up against 
the king, acquired extraordinary importance. England's 
chief means of aggression, moreover, as well as of 
defence, lay in a navy rather than in an army ; and 
ships were chiefly the property of the trading class 


who, now that Vasco da Gama and Columbus had 
changed the channels of the world's commerce, served 
all interests as well as their own, by supplying the 
Spaniards with slaves and relieving them of gold galleons, 
and by building empires overseas. Thus the trading 
classes of moneyed burghers rose to great power in 
England, which accordingly became an exemplar of free 
institutions to ' less happier lands.* The Industrial 
Revolution of the eighteenth century and its develop- 
ments further transformed the relation of power -holders. 
The power of money, of capital, came to overshadow 
and render more or less obsolete all other forms of 
power. Theocratic power, kingly power, landed power, 
military power, became to a large extent dependent 
on the power of money. But they remained, never- 
theless, extretnely useful adjuvants to it . Military power; 
for example, would seem amid the enormous sources 
of power developed by the ' arts of peace * the most 
obsolete, serving no further purpose. XViars, in spite of 
the popular axioms that ' there have always been wars/ 
that ' human nature, etc./ which our beatific ignorance 
is taught to repeat, are a relatively recent invention in 
the history of mankind. * Human nature ' has acquired 
the habit as a means of acquiring property within the 
last five thousand years or so ; it was unknown to 
4 human nature ' during hundreds of thousands, of years, 
and is still unknown to most primitive races. , But as 
a matter of fact militarism was found to be a most 
important ally of financial power, opening up new 
markets, feeding vast industries, stimulating patriotism, 
discipline, obedience, and all sorts of subtly and 
essentially useful virtues. And so of all other forms 
of power. The upshot of the process of development 
through which Europe has passed, is that the extra- 
ordinarily incongruous medley of rival powers which', 
in its origin, struggled for mastery, tore one another 
to pieces, turned Europe inta the cockpit of their 
desperate rivalries and! conflicts, have come ta be 
firmly united, bound 1 fast together by a common 
spirit, common thoughts, and common interests; throne, 
altar, the sword, the pen, and the guinea, stand 


firmly side by side in one huge, indissoluble Holy 

A striking instance of that process is presented by 
Germany. In no part of Europe has the conflict between 
the various powers been more desperate and more pro- 
longed. The power of the elective emperors was 
jealously resisted and kept down by the popes ; that 
of the territorial lords and bishops in whom the elective 
rights were vested inevitably came to overshadow com- 
pletely that of the nominal ruler. The emperor was 
destitute of revenues ; Charles V's predecessor was 
known as ' Maximilian the moneyless/ and the great 
Charles himself was ever at a loss to cope with his penury. 
Every rood of land of the imperial domains eventually 
passed away in bribes to the Electors. The trading 
cities of the Hansa threw off all allegiance to emperor 
or territorial lords. Germany became ultimately frag- 
mented by the incurable separatist tendencies of its 
conditions, and ruined and devastated by the fierce- 
ness of its conflicts. It was rent asunder by three 
different religions. Every form of power, that of 
emperor, priests, barons, and burghers became crippled 
and exhausted by the perpetual conflicts between 
them all. 

Yet on the eve of Germany's fatal bid for ' Weltmacht 
oder Nledergangj what do we find? All those powers 
which for centuries had been engaged in a death -struggle 
against one another are firmly united in the bonds of- 
common ambitions and interests. The Kaiser, repre- 
sentative of the mediaeval ideals of Divine Right and 
empire, is at one with the Junkers, successors of the 
Teutonic Knights and robber -barons ; the financial in- 
terests, the Frankfort bankers, the Hamburg shipowners, 
the industrialists, the Essen steel magnates, representa- 
tives of the trading burghers, assisted and promoted by 
Kaiser and militarists, make the aims and schemes of 
the latter as much their own as court and camp ; even 
the Vatican is not altogether unsuspected of having a 
finger in the plot. So united have been all forms of 
modern power in their aims and action, that it becomes 
a matter of considerable difficulty to disentangle tbeir 


respective responsibilities, and to point beyond doubt 
to the main culprit. 

No sooner had the centralized power of kings become 
sufficiently consolidated in their own domains than they 
sought to overpower their neighbours and seize theirs. 
To the class wars between orders of power, succeeded 
the strife amongst the centralized powers themselves. 
England, being, thanks to geography and the Norman 
Conquest, the first to get consolidated, was accord- 
ingly the first to attack its neighbours. The inhabitants of 
France failed at first to perceive any distinction between 
the aggression of one royal power-system against another 
and the local wars of duke against duke, and king against 
duke to which they were accustomed ; and they remained 
as indifferent in the one case as in the other. It took 
nearly a hundred years of English pillage and devastation 
to rouse them against the nuisance, and for that senti- 
ment to assume the form of patriotism and loyalty to 
their king. No sooner had the English been swept out 
of France than the French king, confirmed in turn in 
his power, hastened to follow the example they had set, 
and to start predatory wars on his own account, attack- 
ing Naples and Milan on the pretext of precisely such a 
title as that of the English king to the crown of France. 
The Pope next bethought himself that he too would like 
to capture a couple of towns and villages to which he 
also had a ' title,' albeit a forged one, and set France, 
the Emperor, Aragon, and the Italian princes route- 
marching against Venice ; and, having secured his loot, 
suggested that the allies should now turn, for want of 
better to do, upon France. And so the dance went on 
that never since has ceased. The personal duel to which 
Francis I challenged the Emperor Charles unfortunately 
never took place ; but they instead fought six wars, de- 
vastated Italy, Artois, Navarre, and successfully, ruined 
Spain and the Germanic Empire. For a share of the 
disintegrating corpse of that empire, German and Austrian 
princes, Dukes of Savoy, Sweden, Denmark, France, 
scrambled for thirty years, killing two-thirds of its popu- 
lation. The King of France, the chief profiter, continued 
the plunder by seizing Alsace and Flanders, and laying 


out picturesque ruins in the Palatinate. The settling of his 
family in Madrid gave rise to a European war which 
went on until every one was weary, and forgot what it 
was about, except Marlborough, who protracted it in view 
of commissions from the army-contrators ; it left the 
map unchanged, and the chief profit to England of her 
most glorious victories was the monopoly of the slave- 
trade, which was secured to her by the Asiento Contract . 
Frenchmen first became acquainted with Russian 
moujiks on the Vistula, because Stanislas Lecszinski was 
not persona grata with the Russian Czar and the Austrian 
Emperor. In order to find an income for her children 
Elizabeth of Parma, with the help of the gardener's son, 
Alberoni, kept Europe on tenter-hooks for twelve years. 
Another little family arrangement of the Austrian Emperor 
Charles VI for the sake of which he sold the trade of 
Belgium to England who, in turn, bestowed Serbia on 
Austria and Greece on Turkey at Passarowitz started 
a European war which lasted seven years. But the worst 
evil which the blundering Charles VI inflicted upon 
Europe was to save the life of Frederick Hohenzollern, 
who was about to be shot by his father, and whose first 
act was to attack and rob the daughter of his preserver. 
She refused Sir Thomas Robinson's pressing offer to join 
England and Prussia against France, and dried her 
Silesian tears with a share of the loot of Poland. The 
robber of Potsdam, assisted by English subsidies of money 
and men, ran amuck, and kept Europe well occupied 
while he created the German Empire, thus enabling his 
English partner to create the British Empire. 

The kings had called themselves ' England,' 
' France,' ' Spain,' as our bishops call themselves 
* Canterbury/ ' York,' ' Winchester.' More recently 
Jo 'burg Jews have been known to call themselves 
'England.' The issues of those contests corresponded 
to no human cause or interest, whether ' racial ' or 
' national.* Race, as the term is used and abused, nations, 
are but the product of the establishment of centralized 
powers in Europe. At the outset, thanks to oecumenical 
tradition of the Roman Empire and of the Church, Europe, 
Christendom, was thought of as a single gozrwrmnity ; 


no portion of it was shut off from the rest, or grew in 
isolation. Considering .the conditions of the e!arly Middle 
Ages the closeness and extent of intercourse was remark- 
able ; it was relatively closer and more extensive than 
in our own times. Monks from Ireland and England 
travelled and settled in Germany, France and Italy ; 
Italian priests became archbishops of Canterbury and 
chancellors of England, and an Englishman became 
chancellor of Sicily ; an Irishman was the friend of 
the Emperor and studied in Spain ; every Englishman 
who cared about such education as was obtainable went 
at least as far as the Paris schools ; the early univer- 
sities in Paris, Bologna, Padua, Naples, Montpellier, 
Vienna, Oxford were divided into ' Nations * of 
students gathered from 1 every part of Europe ; French- 
men swarmed in England, Spaniards travelled in Germany, 
Germans in Spain. There was the closost constant inter- 
course between the Norman courts of Winchester, Rouen 
and Palermo ; between the courts of Barcelona and 
Toulouse, of Carolingian Fran'ce and Germany, of Naples 
and Vienna ; and between every country and the papal 
court of Rome or Avignon. Merchants spent their lives 
trudging backwards and forwards from Italy over the 
Brenner Pass, through Switzerland and along the Rhine 
to the Kansas and Flanders, and vice versa ; postal corre- 
spondence was unsatisfactory, so people went themselves. 
Priests, poets, students, and Jews wandered everywhere ; 
pilgrims from Normandy or Ireland went to Rome, to 
the Holy Land, to the shrines of Southern Italy. The 
population of the eleventh, twelfth, arid thirteenth 
centuries were far greater travellers, considering the 
different conditions, than those of the age of railways. 
That early unity only disappeared, and that intercourse 
and cultural communion became more and more restricted 
as the various centralized powers became stronger. The 
* nations ' grouped about the consolidated thrones with- 
drew more and more into themselves. The tendencies, 
the ' self-determination ' of the peoples themselves, when- 
ever they have been able to show them freely, have 
in general been towards greater unity ; and we have had 
Pan-German, Pan-Slavic, and Pan-Italian movements. 



Only the sufferings of countries governed as conquered 
dependencies, such as Poland, Bohemia, Hungary, Ire- 
land, have given rise to separatist tendencies, and to 
the ideal of setting up house for themselves. European 
wars took place between power- systems composed pf 
agglomerations for the most part heterogeneous in regard 
to race, language, and religion ; and were largely con- 
ducted by means of hired mercenaries, or the troops 
lent by allied powers. Charles VIII and Francis I fought 
with Swiss and even with Turkish troops ; the Burgundian 
Charles V sacked Rome with Spanish land German troops 
led by a Frenchman ; the armies of Tilly, Wallenstein, 
Maximilian, Mansfeld, Christian of Brunswick, Gustavus 
Adolphus, which well-nigh blotted out civilization from 
Central Europe, were composed of adventurers from every 
country, *' raised out of the scum of the people by princes 
who have no dominion over them," as Lord Chichester 
wrote, who passed as occasion offered from one side to 
the other, were paid and fed by plunder, and were more 
dreaded by their 'friends' than by their 'foes.' The 
Prussian army was founded by Frederick William' with 
likely-looking fellows kidnapped by. his recruiting officers 
from Scandinavia to Transylvania, from the Liffey to 
the Niemen ; and of Frederick's armies in the Seven 
Years' War and at Rossbach, where they defeated a 
thoroughly German army, not one half were Prussians. 
The Queen of Hungary defended herself with Italian 
troops ; and England garrisoned Gibraltar, Minorca, and 
India with Germans. 

The domain of European civilization has been turned 
into a cockpit for five centuries and more for reasons 
which not a single group of its inhabitants cared two 
straws about, or even comprehended. The wars of religion 
are somewhat of a relief in the midst of dynastic wars. 
Religious fanaticism is at least sincere ; it may be de- 
plorable, but by the side of naked greed it is respectable. 
But, as a matter of fact, the wars of religion were so 
inextricably mixed with purely political motives, that the 
religious fervour of the few was but a tool of the intrigues 
and scrambles of rulers for possession and power. The 
Protestant Hollanders called the Catholic French under 


the Duke of Anjou to their aid against Alexander Farnese. 
In the ghastly Thirty Years' War " there is no trace," 
Gardiner justly sums up, " of mutual hostility between 
the populations of the Catholic and Protestant districts 
apart from their rulers." French soldiers whose 
fathers had massacred the Huguenots and whose brothers 
were engaged in putting them down, were sent by a 
Cardinal to support the Lutherans against the Catholic 

What is called the * Political History ' of Europe 
is not edifying. The Marquise du Chatelet said that '* she 
could not overcome the disgust with which all modern 
history since the fall of the Roman Empire inspired her." 

In Greek history, though after the epic of the Persian 
repulse it may seem to be taken up with the pettty 
parochial politics, personalities, and protracted brawls 
of two or three neighbouring villages, we see the play 
of every contingency in the medium of the Greek mind, 
in the exceptional light of that clear, free thought, with- 
out disguise or distortion ; so that those parochialities, 
and personalities, and village feuds assume the aspect of 
general questions, and open out into universal thought ; 
and every trifling and trivial detail becomes precious, and 
its local dimensions are lost in bearings and interests 
that are wide as humanity. Even at its very worst and 
basest, when we come upon the crudest greeds and ugliest 
instincts, as in the discussion in the Athenian ecclesia 
on the fate of Mytilene, or in what is known as the Melian 
dialogue in Thucydides, the arguments are brutally cynical, 
but they are not lies ; they are not attempts to turn 
black into white, to persuade into a state of self- 
righteousness, to circumvent the mind in diplomatic 
verbiage, in hypocrisy, to disguise and falsify thoughts. 
We are not dealing with false values, but with 
human facts. In the history of Rome we are ultimately 
dealing with the most selfish motives of sordid greed. 
But the exploitation of mankind as Jhe Romans understood 
it, entailed the task of organizing mankind ; and their 
mind was from the first penetrated ;with the principle 


that the only means by KvhicK hiankind can be organized 
is by fairness, equity, justice. 

But the conflict of cupidities in the barbarian- born 
world of Europe is uninformed by thought and 'unrelieved 
by its organiznig power. Its baseness is, on the contrary, 
made more vile by the abhorrent disguise of simulated 
virtue, by the travesty of every purpose and every motive 
in the hypocrisy of self-righteous and fulsome idealism. 
Reared under the dominance of theocratic power - 
thought which, however sincere, must needs clothe 
all its aims in the terms of its ethical and spiritual 
conventions, European society has from the first 
been trained to give to every act and purpose the 
garb of moral self -righteousness . Priests, often mere 
barbarians raised to ecclesiastical offices by kings 
and dukes, were the first ministers and diplomatists 
of European States. To them fell the task of 
translating into beseeming and unctuous language 
the unscrupulous lusts and shameless treacheries of bar- 
barian chieftains. Dissimulation and perjury were the 
ordinary adjuvants of force. The traditions of European 
statecraft grew up in an atmosphere of perfidy and 
sanctimony. Of those arts of statecraft and diplomacy, 
the Roman court caine to be the recognized mistress and 
model. The task of keeping the petty Italian princi-' 
palities divided among themselves, of warding off powerful 
influences from the peninsula, of maintaining * the 
Balance of Power/ in order to safeguard the couple of 
provinces which the Popes claimed as their temporal 
domain, developed craft, intrigue and deceit into a fine 
art which became the atmosphere of Italian political 
thought and its absorbing study and interest in the 
sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The nanie of 
Machiavelli has come to be indissolubly linked with that 
political ra'scality and unscrupulous fraudulence, and he 
is, rather unjustly, branded as the originator of 
pernicious doctrines of systematic depravity. But 
the Prince is nothing more than a simple exposi- 
tion of the ordinary accepted principles of political 
action in the Italy of his day. The industrious 
Florentine secretary would probably have been 


greatly astonished at being regarded as the theorist of 
political perversity on the score of the journalistic task 
he had undertaken of setting down the current approved 
maxims of government. All European powers have, like 
Frederick of Prussia, loudly disowned and denounced as 
their scapegoat Machiavellian principles, and sedulously 
practised them. Italian statecraft became the admired 
model of governments. The heart of Louis XI so melted 
with tender admiration for Francesco Sforza, the per- 
fection of political rascality, that he refrained from 
robbing him. Thomas Cromwell prided himself, in carry- 
ing out the policies of Wolsey and Henry VIII, on 
his Italian training, and carried the Prince in his 
wallet. Women naturally became the competitors of 
princes and prelates in the arts of mendacity ; Louise of 
Savoy and Margaret of Austria showed at Cambrai equal 
to any envoy in the arts of haggling and overreaching, 
Catherine de Medici, to whose grandfather Machiavelli 
had dedicated his manual, Mary Stuart, the pupil of the 
Guises, were only surpassed by Elizabeth in the 
tortuosities of deceit on which the latter so highly plumed 
herself. The intricacies of crooked schemes, plots, in- 
trigues, and machinations were to such a degree the 
habitual means of political action that rulers became 
actually blind whenever an obvious and straight means of 
achieving their ends presented itself. W<hen, by the death 
of Charles the Bold, the chief prize which the King of 
France had for years schemed to obtain was ready, to 
drop into his mouth, he lost Burgundy because the means 
of obtaining it were so obvious that he devised instead 
circuitous machinations. In the same manner, as 
Bismarck declared, the most assured and insidious means 
of dissimulation was to speak the truth. Historians have 
long conceived it to be their chief function and en- 
deavour to penetrate through the manifold palimpsest 
of ostensible pretexts and intricate mendacities to the 
actual purpose which the chief actors on the stage of 
history had in view. 

Thus have the traditions of European diplomacy and 
politics been formed, that haute diplomatie, those sapient 
webs of combinations and intrigues, that polished and 


punctilious fraudulence, those cat's-paw schemes and 
over -reaching mystifications, the felicitous^ phrasing of 
* formulas ' that enable unavowable vileness to utter 
itself in words, and convenient crime and cool atrocity 
to be glossed over with simulated rectitude, that decorous 
rascality that stinks in the grand manner, those oblique 
and secret transactions of pilfering designers in which the 
destinies of mankind are played away with loaded dice 
thus hitherto has the government of the human race 
been constituted. In the year 1648 the Power-States 
of anarchic Europe, exhausted, depopulated, ruined, 
fatigued and unnerved by thirty years of the most de- 
vastating of wars, sent their delegates to the first 
European Peace Conference at Minister and Osnabruck, 
that some -settlement ' might be effected. But even in 
the extremity of universal need and suffering the dominant 
anxiety of great and small wias not at all to ' settle ' 
anything, but to scramble for loot, for Naboth's vine- 
yards, for ' satisfactions/ ' compensations/ ' indemni- 
ties/ and to seek increase and profit out of the misery 
of humanity. 

Divested of those decent veils with which its nakedness 
is customarily disguised by the reflections of power- 
thought, the purview of European history appears to 
be conducive to a Yahoo view of humanity. It may not 
unnaturally be asked, * If the elements of the modern 
world are so much baser than those of the civilization 
it supplanted, what then becomes of our law of human 
progress? ' 

There is, as a matter of fact, no aspect of history which 
more brightly illuminates that law in all its splendour. 
The truly sublime fact is that through all that name- 
less slough of mire and sordidness there runs a trail 
of growing light, a sight of the stars. It is no 
ambiguous and debatable value sentimentally interpreted 
into questionable history, but the precious adamantine 
core of life that lies indestructible under all friable 
incrustations of murk and clay. Not only has that 
European world been the mediurq of human evolution, 


but the phase of that evolution which has issued thence 
has transcended every foregoing phase. What neither the 
free power of Greek thought nor the organizing skill 
and ideals of Rome did, or could accomplish, has been 
compassed by modern Europe. The powers of develop- 
ment jand control of which individual man disposes have 
not only been infinitely extended, but the task of their 
adjustment in the organism of humanity has been ad- 
vanced as never before. If our world stands to-day 
quivering in anxiety and bewilderment before the issues 
that confront it, that very distress and those doubts 
are the signs of accomplished evolution ; and those issues 
and the potentialities out of which they arise are such 
as would to any previous age, could it have so much 
as conceived them, have seemed the distant problems of 
utopic speculation. 

The phenomenon of that marvellous development is 
wholly the outcome of the operation of rational thought. 
The manner in which that operation has taken place will, 
I trust, become clearer in the following pages. Before 
considering it, we must, however, first note some of the 
characters of the development of thought in modern 
Europe . 

Like its social state, the culture of Europe is a medley 
of the most disparate and incongruous ingredients. If 
our intellectual world is so sharply divided into a number 
of separate realms of thought, a theological, a literary, 
or rather three or four separate literary spheres, 
philosophy, science, that is not, as might be assumed, 
a natural division of the spheres of intellect grounded 
in the nature of things, nor is it merely the exprean 
sion of a convenient division of labour due to the 
vastness of present knowledge. It is, on the con- 
trary, a curious and peculiar anomsaly due to his- 
torical causes, to the circumstances in which the 
intellectual development of Europe has taken place. 
Religion, literature, poetry, metaphysics, science, are not 
in the nature of things separate realms of thought, having 
incompatible standards and values and moods ; there 
is but one order of standards and values of thought. 


In no other culture have those sharp divisions existed. 
The oriental priest, the Greek philosopher, the lover of 
wisdom, regarded all knowledge and all art as their 
province ; like them the Muslim sages were universalists 
and joined the cultivation of astronomy to that of poetry, 
of metaphysics to that of medicine and music. Whether 
such universalism is now either needful or possible is 
not the point. It is impossible, not so much because of 
the expansion of our omne scibile y but rather because 
we have practically three or four totally separate 
cultures coexisting side by side, but in their essence 
alien, unrelated, immiscible, differing not in their scope 
alone, but in their standards and outlooks, influencing each 
other, but only as might the cultures of different civili- 
zations ; cultures which have grown along separate lines 
without mixing, almost without meeting. We have 
the vestige of the theocratic thought which once 
controlled all thought, standing apart front every 
other realm of the human mind, from historical thought, 
from metaphysics, from science, from the currents of 
educated thought, surviving in another universe. jWe have 
an academic world, the offspring of Renaissance humanism, 
beatifically repeating its formulas, living amid its 
own peculiar likes and dislikes, and controlling what 
we are pleased to term education, helping to keep secret 
the fact that the world has moved since the fifteenth 
century. We have somewhere or other a philosophical 
world, whose function should be to unify all thought and 
mould and guard its unity, but which, owing to its un- 
fortunate development partly at the breast of theology, 
partly in desperate \conflict with it, has proved wholly 
abortive, a miserable misbirth, whose existence is not 
certainly known in the living world. WJe have a world 
of science that has grown in solitary seclusion and 
isolation from all other culture, despised and abused ; 
which has only compassed toleration and some measure 
of influence through the circumstance that, as a by- 
product of its activities, it has acted as the jinnee -slave 
which has transformed the material world ; and it has 
continued on the whole secluded, silent and alien to 
surrounding thought. We have a vast, billowing flood 


of popular literature, ephemeral press, fiction, pamphlets 
and clap -trap, a literature which might be termed the 
Literature of Ignorance,, whose first object is to get itself 
printed and sold, which lives accordingly by tickling and 
pandering, and represents the mentality of the multitude 
whose intellectual pabulum it provides. That condition 
of our European culture with its water-tight compart- 
ments, its theology ignoring philosophy and science and 
literature ; its abortive philosophy ignorant of science ; 
its science ignorant of philosophy and despising literature ; 
its educational literature ignorant of everything save Greek 
syntax and ' the wisdom of the ancients ' ; its general 
literature ignorant of all else save the arts of the pimp 
and the pander that, I say, is not at all a natural state 
of things but an abnormality, indeed a monstrous 
deformity of our existing intellectual development. 

If intermixture, variety, diversity of cultures and ideas 
are beneficial and necessary, they are only so to the full 
on condition that they become truly intermixed, unified, 
assimilated into an harmonious whole. Greek assimi- 
lation of all previous civilization was only so master- 
fully successful because it absorbed and assimilated 
them into a wonderfully homogeneous unity, filtered 
through its critical attitude, stamped with the impress 
of its own logical spirit. Our civilization, our intellectual 
culture, rich as it is from the multitude of its component 
elements and the variety of its experience, suffers pro- 
foundly from the fundamental accident that those elements 
have remained in a large measure unblended and ununified. 
Our culture, our cultures, I should say, are unassimilated, 
undigested. Our civilization has hence remained in its 
structure heterogeneous, unbalanced, disorderly, unequal, 
lacking equilibrium to such an extent that its elements 
and principles are constantly toppling down over one 
another in the confusion of inconsistency. 

At the outset, as we saw, the .world of theological 
thought was supreme. The Scriptures, or the Fathers 
were the sole admissible source -of ideas, of thought, 
of knowledge. The attitude of the European mind 
was that ascribed to 'Amr in the doubtful anecdote 
of the destruction of the Alexandrian library : " That 


knowledge which is already contained in the Kuran is 
superfluous, that which conflicts with it is false." From 
that fatal situation Europe has been saved by the power 
of the secular civilization of Greece and Rome. The 
exclusion of secular thought could not be maintained 
against that influence ; secular thought, often in conflict 
with, often crippled by theological thought, could not 
be kept out ; it made the development of Europe 
possible . 

But that development, in its mental aspect, differed 
totally from that of the ancient world. Secularism did 
not supplant the original theocratic thought, but grew 
alongside it in strained adaptation and conflict. An 
entirely new element, moreover, entered the European 
mind, setting a difference between it and all previous 
thought . 

With the effects of that new element, quite foreign 
to classical culture the scientific spirit we are, in 
their grosser aspects, tritely familiar. The expansion 
by its means of European civilization to the four 
quarters of the globe, the complete transformation of 
its material aspects, the rise of industrialism, the conse- 
quent redistribution of alj. powers, the multiplication 
of the means of intercommunication and the ensuing 
dissemination of thought, are results as commonplace 
in their obviousness as they are gigantic in their 
significance. Scarcely less so is the transformation by 
science of man's ideas, the revelation of the universe 
and of man's and his world's place within it, the con- 
ceptions of natural law, of the conservation of energy, 
of evolution, which have transmuted the outlooks of 
the human mind, and sapped, as no other power could, 
the foundations of all power-thought and authority. 

But the action of that new influence cuts even deeper 
and more subtly into the very nature of the European 
mind and of its growth. >W3ien experimental research, 
the investigation of nature by the observation of details 
and exact measurement, when mathematical analysis, 
and also scholastic disputation fine-spun on the web 1 of 
Aristotelian dialectic, began, at the very dawn of its 
awakening from the night of the dark centuries, to 


occupy the mind of Europe, a new form, a new turn 
was given to it which radically distinguished it from 
the mentality of the Grseco-Roman world. 

The nature of that difference in the character of 
human thought is perhaps best illustrated by reference 
to the highest and more subtle forms of its activity, 
to the conceptions of pnilosophical thought. (With the 
Greeks philosophical thought, founding itself on a very 
slender and perfunctory analysis and investigation of 
experience, aimed primarily and directly at an inter- 
pretation of the world, at the construction of a complete 
and harmonious conception of the universe that 
should furnish a rounded -off outlook satisfying in the 
symmetry of its finished outline. The refinements of 
logical and dialectical thought had for their object to 
secure and test that harmony and consistency of 
the various parts of such a system with one another,, 
a task which was performed by the thinkers of Greece 
with an acuteness which has forestalled almost every 
subsequent path of thought. During 1 the Middle Ages 
any such attempt at interpretation of the world was, 
of course, precluded by the veto of dogma. Scholastic 
thought, confined within the limits of that postulated 
interpretation, employed itself with the discussion of 
separate aspects and questions, 'which', owing to the 
large infusion of Hellenistic and Neoplatonic doctrine 
in the Christian theology, offered ample scope for such 
exercise ; it considered also the criterion of authority 
upon which those various aspects and parts of dogma 

The first thinker who in the new Europe anslwers 
to the appellation of philosopher, Rene* Descartes, was 
an ardent student of the new world and methods of 
science which were just then disengaging themselves 
from the husks of Aristotelianism in the Paduan school ; 
an original investigator in anatomy and physiology, 
an expert mathematician whose progress in analytical 
geometry led the way from the tentative efforts of Kepler 
and Cavalieri to the calculus of Leibnitz and Newton ; 
and so deeply interested in the Copernican doctrine that 
he had written a work upon the subject which he, 


however, destroyed in dismay on hearing of the impeach- 
ment of Galilei. The way in which the tasks of 
philosophical thought presented themselves -to the first 
European philosopher at once marks the deep-set, radical 
contrast between modern and Greek thought. * On 
coming to examine the various things which I had 
been taught and supposed I knew,' Descartes said, 
' I found that, in truth, I could not be said to 
know any of them; that my information and my views 
had been taken on trust and that I had no guarantee 
of their accuracy and validity. Finding that no single 
item of my supposed knowledge could stand the test 
of critical examination, I resolved to reject and discard 
it altogether, and to start again from the beginning 
to endeavour to discover what things I could 1 regard 
as really known. I decided, therefore, not to accept 
any truth whatsoever unless I had thoroughly satisfied 
myself of its validity, and saw it beyond doubt quite 
clearly and distinctly.' That conception of the task 
of philosophical thought differs completely from that 
of the ancients. No longer to build up a rounded 
and complete system of the universe presenting at all 
cost a purview of harmonious contemplation, was the 
object of the thinker, but to assure himself of the 
validity, of the legitimate nature of whatever know- 
ledge he, in the process of thought, was called upon 
to use; to test the value of his currency, to cast 
aside all such coins of the mind as did not give the 
sterling ring of solid worth; not to be constructive 
but critical. That in the development of his thoughts 
Descartes fell far short of the rules and principles he 
had set himself, is of no essential relevance. Of 
immeasurably greater importance even than any products 
and results of thought is the desire that animates 
it, its aim, its method. Always and everywhere it is 
not between Truth an ! d Error in the fruits of thought 
that the essential conflict, the ^ significant contrast lies, 
but between the truth and error in the aim of thought, 
in the nature of its sanctions and validities. 

The aim of philosophical activity, then, with Descartes 
and with the European thinkers, Locke, Berkeley, 


Hume, Kant, who succeed him, is no longer, as with' 
the ancients, satisfying harmony, beauty, interpretative 
completeness, but accuracy of thought. The function of 
philosophy is not to construct, but to test. 

Philosophy, metaphysics are, we have made up our 
minds to consider, remote and detached backwaters of 
the human world. It is hardly to those dusty volumes 
on the top shelves that the throbbing life, the excite- 
ments and events, the political, the social developments 
of Europe are to be traced. In what measure the 
vogue of Cartesian philosophy, the academic enthusi- 
asms and controversies of Dutch universities, of Paris 
and Oxford, the gushing dilettantism of fine gentlemen 
and fine ladies, of my lord van Zuitlichen, of Elizabeth, 
Princess Palatine, or Queen Christina of Sweden, have 
had any bearing on the world's course; in what measure 
all philosophical ideas percolating downwards through 
all the strata of thought, may tinge and perfuse even 
the thought of the street to Which philosophy and 
philosophers are unheard-of exotics, it is not need- 
ful to discuss here. Philosophical thought, if it 
is not the source and guide, philosophers, if they 
are not the leaders, are at least, like all else, the 
expression and the product of the times, the index of 
their moods and characters. 

What has been illustrated by reference to philosophic 
thought is distinctive of all European as contrasted 
with foregoing thought. The conditions in which it 
has formed and developed have stamped upon it that 
critical, questioning, testing character which has marked 
every tendency of its growth and expansion. From its 
dogmatic cradle where only the relative authority of 
authorities was in dispute, through' the various stages 
of its liberation from authority, of its secularization, to 
the growing challenge it casts, as secular thought, to 
all sanctions, the progressive accentuation of that 
critical attitude is evinced. Follow and compare, 
for instance, in one train of thought the attitude 
of mind in, say, Augustine or Aquinas with that 
of Hooker, and that again with what it has become 
in Hobbes, and from Hobbes to Montesquieu, from 


Montesquieu to Mill or Bentham, arid; from th'em to tHe 
same train of thought as it presents itself to-day. What 
successive metamorphic changes in the character of 
thought, no less startling; than any transmutation of 
species ! Throughout the modern period the spirit that 
manifests itself in whatsoever sphere of mental attitude 
is the same. Ultimately it proceeds towards* a challenge 
to every existing! fact and estimate to justify 'itself 
on rational grounds. By degrees every consecrated; 
opinion, every theory, every foregone judgtnent, every 
venerable institution is brought to question. The tabu 
of traditional, inviolable, unquestionable and un- 
questioned sacredness and * taking for granted ' has 
been ruthlessly torn from every established power, 
institution, opinion and conception . ' 1%>on what title 
does this thing rest, that power stand? Up^ what sanc- 
tion is that fact assumed, that belief held, that custom 
acknowledged, that notion accepted, that claim advanced, 
that estimate founded? If it can give an account of 
itself, in clear terms of reason, Well and good.. But if it 
can put forward no better title than venerable antiquity, 
established use and 1 Wont, ancient tradition, hitherto; un- 
disputed acceptance and sanctity, it has no claim to 
our deference. Immemorial recognition constitutes in 
itself no title. Can it justify itself rationally to-day? 
Would we on apprehensible rational grounds accept the 
estimate to-day, would we choose that as the best 
possible way of managing the matter, or could we 
devise a better? If the thing" is! rationally acceptable, 
it matters not whether it be new or old, if it be not 
rationally acceptable its age and origin likewise are 
irrelevant. Mere custom, mere undisturbed reputation 
of inviolable sanctity, have nothing' to do with the case, 
constitute no claim, no title, and no sanction.' Such 
is the spirit in which the modern age has faced the 
order of established thing's in the human world, whether 
astronomical view's or religious opinions, political institu- 
tions or moral estimates, thoughts or things,, theories 
or privileges. Step by step it has thrown its 
challenge to every assumption however old, immemorially 
consecrated, however axiomatically acceptec} ; The scope 


of the critical process Has extended from century to 
century and from decade to decade; that, which 
remained tabu to the iconoclastic examination of the 
seventeenth century Was traduced before the tribunal 
of the eighteenth, that which was indulgently taken 
for granted by; the criticism of the eighteenth century 
was impeached' by the nineteenth; until there is not a 
principle or a human fact, however deeply rooted in 
the very constitution of the race, or] hedged with the 
halo of immemorial inviolability that is not to-day 
dragged before the bar of free inquiry, examination and 

In what manner European development has, in its 
structure and inmost worth', been determined by that 
character of U^ught, it will bo the purpose of the 
following c^f>ters to elucidate. 







THAT the world of material wonder which the one- 
time troglodyte has built him, that his mansions of 
knowledge and stately pleasure- houses of art and ease, 
are conquests of the cunning quality of his mind's 
power, is manifest beyond serious doubt or dispute. 
But all those things, the material side of human progress, 
the improvements in life's resources and comforts, 
industry, commerce, arts, culture, intellectual growth, 
are, many will be prompt to exclaim, but husks and 
externals. They constitute indeed the vaunted triumphs 
of ' civilization,' of ' progress ' ; but precisely on that 
account there are those who scoff at those conceptions 
as hollow delusions. Humanity does not necessarily 
stand upon a higher plane of being when riding above 
the clouds, nor does a hundred miles an hour consti- 
tute progress ; man is not even intrinsically transformed 
by being able to weigh the stars and disport his mind 
over wider spheres of knowledge. There is a deeper 
aspect of human affairs. There is something Which 
stands nearer to the essence of human worth than any 
form of material or intellectual power, than the control 
of nature or the development of the mind's insight. 
Power, civilization, culture count for nought if they 
are associated with moral evil. The real standard by 
which the worth of the human world is to be truly 
computed is a moral standard. It is in an ethical 
sense that the word ' good ' bears its essential meaning 
when applied to things human; and no process x>f 
human evolution can be counted real which is not above 
all an evolution in 'goodness/ 



The customary traditional grounds from which" such 
a judgment proceeds may be more than disputable. 
The judgment itself is, strange to say, correct. The 
ethical criterion is supreme. It stands as the measure 
of human development and its achievements paramount 
over all other values. 

Our confidence and assurance in the foundations of 
our moral judgments are nowadays sorely shaken. The 
* categorical imperative ' no longer carries conviction. 
kWe look round* in vain for some solid peg of fact 
whereon to hang those colossally sanctified ideas of right, 
of righteousness. In * nature ' we seem to see none ; 
nature is cruel and cold; ** the gods," as Heracleitos 
long ago used to say, " are beyond good and evil.*' 
In the whole universe no trace of this colossal thing, 
this supreme morality, is discernible; look as we may 
we can discover! among the laws of nature no trace 
of this 'moral law.' Only in the traditions of men 
can we find it, uncertainly formulated, variously re-edited 
according to time and latitude. It is, we are driven 
to conclude, but a man-made convention ; not a law 
of nature, and something sacrosanct and Wonderful, but 
at most a police by-law, as ' sacred ' and no more 
as yonder notice that warns us that ' Trespassers will 
be prosecuted.' 

How conies it, then, to have usurped such an out- 
rageously large place in human thought, in human 
life? For many illegitimate reasons, doubtless. But 
also and above all for a very legitimate and real 
reason . That ' moral law ' is, in fact, after all, a law 
of nature. That ' supremacy of ethics ' does correspond 
in truth to a very real and supremely important fact in 
human development. 

And that fact is the one which we ^have already 
noted : that the peculiar means and conditions of human 
development necessitate that that development shall take 
place not by way of individuals, but by way of the 
entire human race ; that the grade of evolution of each 
individual is the resultant of that oecumenical develop- 
ment ; that the race alone is the bearer of the hereditary 
transmission of the products of that evolution ; that the 


task necessarily imposed upon man by the conditions of 
his evolution is the creation of a new organism, that 
of humanity ; that the development of his individual 
powers can only take place in relation to that larger 
organism ; that it is rigorously conditioned by that 
necessity and must, as an indispensable pre-requisite, 
be adjusted to it; that by that task, in its difficulty 
and magnitude, all other issues of human development 
are overshadowed. 

The making of humanity 1 that is the burden of man's 
evolution. And that is the solid, nay, somewhat hard 
fact, of which the ' moral law ' is the vaguely conscious 
expression. It is no throbbing impulse of altruism, no 
inspiration of generosity for its own sake, but a heavy 
weight of necessity laid upon man's development by 
the unbending conditions that govern it. And the 
supremacy, the paramount character of morality corre- 
sponds to the overshadowing magnitude of the evolu- 
tionary task which it expresses, and of the difficulties 
that beset it. The questions and problems comprised 
under the terms * ethics ' and ' morality ' are no other 
than the problems arising from that task. The necessity 
of ethical considerations is no other than the hard 
necessity of adaptation to facts as they are. There are 
in the relations between man and man conditions which 
are, and others which are not adapted to actual facts. 
The unadapted result in failure, the adapted in evolu- 
tionary growth and life. 

Man by the* law of his development seeks power 
over his fellows. But now the peculiar human situation 
arises. The exploited competitor is a fellow-man, an 
element in the, human world. The inevitable conse- 
quence of that situation is that the condition of the 
exploited reacts upon the exploiter himself. The 
exploiter can only wield power over his competitor at 
the expense of his own evolutionary power and of that 
of the race. 

The necessary concomitant of power exercised by 
man over man is power -thought ; and nowhere is the 
falsification of power-thought more profound than in 
the sphere of ethical values. The most important 


product of power-thought consists precisely in false 
values, in false ethical systems. Man's world is thereby 
falsified in regard to the most essential and vital aspects 
of his evolution. That evolution is inevitably vitiated 
at its very source. 

In the case of the individual himself the nemesis 
is unfortunately not strikingly and immediately con- 
spicuous. It is no less real, because his whole develop- 
ment, his ideals, his values are falsified and debased; 
they cannot be the full quality of life's highest values. 
But that real life does not exhibit the ideal retribution, 
the poetic justice which was once the commonplace of 
dramatist and novelist, that wickedness is not punished, 
nor virtue rewarded, that, on the contrary, injustice, 
fraud, oppression do commonly triumph in exultant 
enjoyment of the fruits of their assault upon right, 
and that right goes unrighted to the end, has become 
in turn a platitude. What really happens is that the 
phase of society, the order of things in which 
disregard of right is habitual and accepted, inevitably 
deteriorates and perishes. However much the individual 
may temporarily benefit by iniquity, the social organism 
of which he is a part, and the very class which! enjoys 
the fruits of that iniquity, suffer inevitable deteriora- 
tion through its operation. They are unadapted to the 
facts of their environment. The wages of sin is death, 
by the inevitable operation of natural selection. 

The ineludible fact is that recognition of the real 
conditions of his environment and conformity with them 
is the sole means of development and of real power of 
which man disposes. If he chooses to set aside the 
powers and conditions of human evolution, and to rely 
instead upon force and false doctrine, upon bludgeons, 
and intellectual and moral chloroform, the result must 
correspond to the means it is not evolution, it is not 
development of human power, it is not progress. If 
he abdicates the only means of human power and adopts 
those of brute power, his progress is not towards human 
power, but backwards, towards brutality. 

Nietzsche, having perceived the invalidity and 
anarchy of current ethical notions, concluded that the 


only principle having any real basis in natural facts is 
the exercise and development of human power. That 
is quite true; all human evolution is the development 
of man's powers of control over the conditions of his 
life. But the peculiarity arising out of those conditions 
is this : from the moment that the ' will to power ' 
of the individual seeks to realize itself at the expense 
and to the detriment of others, it defeats the very object 
for which it strives. All the enormous power which 
humanity has developed and created has been attained by, 
checking the encroachments of individual power; all 
the encroachments of individual power in the history 
of mankind have had the effect of checking the actual 
development of human power. The power of the 
average man to-day is absolutely and beyond all com- 
parison greater than the power of Alexander the Great, 
of Caesar, even of Napoleon. He has actually more 
material, intellectual, and spiritual forces at his command 
and under his control than the ' masters of the world ' 
in bygone days. His life can in every sense, except 
that of actual despotic domination over his fellows, be 
a fuller, richer, and more powerful life; and he can, 
in point of fact, obtain very much more effective service 
from his fellows than it was ever in the power 
of any despot to obtain. And that prodigious in- 
crease in power has been obtained precisely at the 
expense of the old power of individual domination. In 
proportion as that futile and sterile power has been 
abridged and rendered impossible, the real substantial 
power of individual man has increased. A world of 
masters perfectly and completely dominating a multitude 
of slaves would be a world of complete stagnation, 
shorn of the power of evolution, fatally and utterly 
emasculated. It would lead, as I have said, not towards 
Superman, but towards Caliban man. If such a world 
had been completely realized in the Stone Age, the 
result would be that we should still be in the Stone 
Age. The advantage to the ' masters ' would be some- 
what questionable. If in the early sixteenth century 
the pupils of Machiavelli had succeeded in permanently 
establishing their power on Nietzschean principles, we 


should be still in the early sixteenth century; or rather 
we should be in the condition in which Spain was under 
Carlos II as a result of the perfectly ' successful ' 
application of those principles, when it was the proud 
boast of her rulers that there was not a single heretic 
or a single, disloyal person in the realm; when in 
the midst of a desolate and depopulated country, sunk 
to the lowest depths of abject misery and degradation 
which ^.ny land] once civilized has ever touched, the 
imbecile king himself was unable to obtain a sufficiency 
of food. Such are the ultimate fruits of power. 1 , 

'The moral law is a law of nature. Like every, 
other law governing living organisms, it is a condi- 
tion of adaptation to facts. Unlike a physical law, 
it can be transgressed ; but it is transgressed only at 
the peril of the race, at the sacrifice of its most 
intimate and vital interests, at the sacrifice of its 
evolution. Justice is; the condition of human adapta- 
tion to the facts of human life. It is not merely 
a demand of self-interest, a cry of the weak; -for 
protection; it is the call of the paramount interests 
of the race, it is an expression of that i spirit, of that 
agency which actuates its evolution. And it is as imuch 
a rational aim, that is, one corresponding to the demands 
of existing facts, as is that of any human device for 
the better control of the conditions of existence. 


iWith the notion of an innate moral sense and 
categorical imperative went the incredible delusion that 
no essential progress has taken place in the moral sphere, 


that the principles of right and wrong became obvious 
long ago, and have remained immutable. That delusion 
is due in part to the circumstance that moral injunc- 
tions are indefinitely elastic. As long as there have 
been any moral notions at all, some such law has been 
recognized as ' One ought to be good ' ; and it might 
be alleged that nothing essential has ever been added 
to it. But within the terms of such a sentiment is, of 
course, included every possible type of ethical standard 
from that of the primitive Hebrew and the Thug, to 
that of Plato and of modern man; and the worst 
atrocities which the world has seen have been committed 
by men who were intent on being * good.' The moral 
principle that it is wrong to commit murder is doubtless 
very old. But in early Judaea to sacrifice the first- 
born was not murder ; in the seventeenth century ' not 
to suffer a witch to live ' was not murder ; in the 
twentieth century war is not murder. The moral precept 
that it is wrong to steal is ancient; but it has always 
been held glorious for military states to steal from 
one another, and right and proper for every powerful 
class to steal from those below it; and doubt still 
exists in the minds of some as to whether the present 
social order is not founded on legalized theft. Every 
ethical principle has been hel ; d at first to be applicable 
and valid only within a certain restricted sphere, while 
in other cases its direct contravention has been regarded 
as not only permissible, but right and laudable; just 
as the virtue of religious toleration, when first dis- 
covered, was as a matter of course assumed to be 
wholly inapplicable to non-Christians. Abstract precepts 
are of very little significance in the ethical history ; 
of mankind; it is their concrete interpretation which 1 
has varied. The mere utterance and iteration of moral 
platitudes is almost entirely irrelevant as an index or 
factor of moral evolution. People uttered the same 
unctuous moralities in the thirteenth century as they 
do to-day, and were quite as blind to the actual 
enormities around them as dealers in copy-book maxims 
are to-day to the patent immoralities which stare them 
in the face. Facts, not fine maxims, are the measure 


of moral evolution. Principles are of significance only 
when they are new, when they are genuine moral 
discoveries traversing the current and accepted codes, 
and therefore representing a real mental awakening. 

Justice has been preached in the name of tyranny, 
liberty in that of oppression, and men holding the 1 Gospel 
in one hand, have with the other put Europe to the 
sword, just as theologians have been known to 
express dissatisfaction with the conclusiveness of mathe- 
matical reasoning, and Italian priests to condemn super- 
stition. Moralists have done comparatively little for 
morality. Its progress has been promoted by quite 
other agencies, unconnected in appearance and in name 

!with professed morality. Morality has been thought to 
remain stationary because whenever it has advanced 
1 it has been called by some other name. 

Moral ideas and v ; morality, it is to-day pretty generally 
recognized, show change and advance, are aspects of 
evolution and of progress in at least the same degree 
as material development, intellectual progress, know- 
ledge, or any other face of human growth. But, while 
it may without difficulty be admitted that other 
aspects of progress are the result of rational thought, 
that view will be pronounced preposterous when applied 
to moral evolution. It is, on the contrary, commonly 
held that moral excellence is totally distinct in its 
nature and in its sources from any form of intel- 
lectual development. It is assumed as an axiom that 
the two things, moral excellence and intellectual 
development, are wholly unrelated ; that the one 
can develop independently of the other ; that a 
society may be rich in the products of the intellect 
and poor in morality, or rude in point of civilization 
and culture and exalted from the point of view of 
ethics ; that there exists no direct connection between 
the two orders of qualities. There is even a widely, 
diffused notion that they are directly antagonistic, that 
moral excellence goes with a lowly intellectual state, 
that high culture and intellectual development corrupt 
it,xthat advanced civilization is generally unfavourable 


to it, and that it is chiefly to be found in the poor in. 
mind, and in simple, primitive and unsophisticated phases 
of society. 

Those views are, I maintain, utterly erroneous. 
Ethical development, like every other aspect of human 
progress, not only goes hand in hand with the growth 
and diffusion of rational thought, but is the direct out- 
come of it. 

The fact too glaring to be ignored or effectively 
disputed that during the modern age, in spite of the 
continuous decay of every commonly accepted sanction 
of morality, the sensitiveness of moral judgment has 
at the same time grown keener than ever before, has 
proved disconcerting to the upholders of those long 
current theories upon which whole systems of thought 
have been based. Marked by an unprecedented growth 
of rational thought, by the strenuous extension of the 
critical spirit to every sphere, by the boldness with 
which every categorical assumption has been challenged, 
the last three centuries have witnessed the continuous 
growth of scepticism, not merely in regard to the dogmas 
of religions, but also in regard to all things which fail 
to furnish a clear rational account of themselves. To- 
day not only are dogmatic faiths in a state of dissolution, 
but every traditional sanction and standard of morality 
is being subjected to the most unsparing criticism. Con- 
fusion, doubt, and indecision reign wherever direct denial 
does not altogether repudiate the old foundations and 
norms of moral conduct. And yet, in spite of the 
uncertainty attaching to all phases of transition, there 
never was, not by many degrees, an age so moral, in 
the fullest and truest sense of the term, as the present. 
Whatever indictment can be brought against it, it is 
certain that the appeal of sentiments of justice, fairness, 
humanity, has never been so powerful and so general. 
Never was sensitiveness to wrong, oppression, injustice, 
so keen ; never was the conscience of society wherever 
suffering, evil, abuse exist so lively and susceptible. 
Injustice, abuses, crime, and vice, exist to-day as they 
have done in former ages, but never have they stood 


so universally arraigned and condemned at the bar of 
public opinion. The claims of right and righteousness, 
of high and earnest standards of life and conduct, have 
never been, even in the most puritanical communities, 
so strongly felt. All existing evil, however gross, is 
conscious as it never was before of the force of repro- 
bating moral opinion. Even the strongest promptings 
of individual and class interest dare not openly profess 
indifference to any form of oppression, suffering and 
dissoluteness . 

And more [truly and more clearly than in any sentiment 
or opinion, the ethical development of the age is mani- 
fested in the concrete facts of human relations. We 
frequently contrast the material marvels of our present 
civilization, our network of railways and swift steamships, 
our telegraphs and ethergraphs, our electric light and 
power, our automobiles and aeroplanes, the abolishing 
of distance, the wonders of industry, the contrivances 
and comforts of our daily life, with the material civili- 
zation of Europe, say, a hundred and fifty years ago.- 
But the contrast between the greatest marvels of modern 
machinery, and the lumbering conveyances, the guttering 
candles, the filthy streets, the distaffs and looms, the 
crude hand implements of the eighteenth century, is 
not so great as that between the common notions and 
practices of justice and humanity at the present dav ( 
and those which obtained in Europe even at that not 
very distant period. The slave-trade Was , in full swing ; 
hundreds of slave-ships sailed from Liverpool ; petty 
larceners were sold to the American colonies at five 
shillings a head ; public executions at Tyburn, the 
victims often being women convicted of shoplifting, 
offered frequent occasions for popular festivities ; 
publishers of heretical books were placed in the 
pillory at Charing Cross, at Temple Bar, at the Royal 
Exchange, and were handed over to the populace to 
be pelted and stoned ; press-gangs scoured the country, 
men were seized in the street, in their homes, at their, 
weddings, and sent in chains to the King's or the 
India Company's navy ; women and children worked, 
half -naked in coalmines ; coalminers and salt -workers 


in Scotland were legality in the position of predial slaves ; 
the cockpit and the prize-ring offered to English gentle- 
men their daily amusement ; the English government 
under the elder Pitt issued letters of marque to privateers 
to plunder the shipping of Holland while it was at 
peace with that country. On the Continent the state 
of things was even worse, the feudal system and all 
its abuses were in force, the rack and the boot were 
at work in Paris, lettres de cachet were issued, 
every product of independent thought was visited upon 
its author with persecution, the galleys were full, the 
Inquisition sat in Spain, and autos-da-fe were still'alight. 
Those revolting conditions, which we have so com- 
pletely outgrown that we are no longer able to conceive 
them distinctly, were those of comparatively recent 
times ; and they stand, I say, in far more complete 
contrast with the conditions of civilized European coun- 
tries to-day, than does a modern express train to the 
stage-coaches in which our grandfathers journeyed. And 
that enormous ethical development has gone hand in 
hand with the decay of all the influences which have i 
been credited with fostering the moral sense, and with , 
the operation of all the critical and rational forces 
which have been supposed to be unfavourable to its 
high development. But in truth that moral progress 
is connected with the critical attitude of the modern 
age, not accidentally and circumstantially, but as directly 
as are its scientific discoveries and its mechanical , 
achievements. Both changes, the material change and ; 
the moral change, are the effects of the same cause. 
The abolition of the horrors of feudalism, the abolition 
of gross iniquity and inhumanity, are as much results 
of the critical attitude of rationalism as is the abolition 
of the Ptolemaic system or that of the degeneration 
theory. That intolerance of abuse and wrong, that 
imperative insistence upon justice and humanity which 
place the present age, from a moral standpoint, above 
all its predecessors, are the direct products of the same 
intellectual processes which have given us the steam- 
engine and the dynamo, 




The ethical spirit of the modern age, it must be 
aoted, is above all characterized by the ideas of justice, 
fairness, fair -play, rather than by those of abnegation, 
self-sacrifice, and emotional sentiments, which marked 
the morality of religious periods. 

Now in the first place, the practice and attitude of 
justice is essentially a matter of exact judgment. Tfee 
attitude of fairness, the judicial attitude, which requires 
all relevant circumstances to be taken into cognizance, 
every case to be regarded objectively, the elimination 
of all preconception and prejudice, the minimizing of 
the personal equation, is precisely the mental attitude 
which critical judgment demands. The judicial mind 
is the essential qualification of the scientist, no less 
than of the judge. The man to whom we turn when 
looking for fair dealing, fearless rectitude and impartial 
judgment, is he whom we deem capable of taking a 
broad, unbiased, a well-informed, and logical view of 
the case, the man who will not be swayed by pre- 
conceived impressions, carried away by impulse, blinded 
by custom and tradition, ruled by emotions. They are 
qualities of the intellect, both in regard to fullness of 
adequate knowledge, and to critical and discriminating 
use of it ; they are qualities which constitute intellectual 
honesty and competence ; they are the essential and 
fundamental conditions of rational thought. 

But the connection is, we shall see, still closer. A 
postulate lies at the foundation of all notions of justice : 
the equal claim of all individuals. But that postulate, 
though affirmative in form, really embodies a series of 
negations. It rests upon the repudiation of all claims 
to privileged conduct and privileged dealing. Those 
claims can produce no other title to recognition than 
traditions, consolidated assumptions, established power, 
claims which are utterly incapable of bearing the test 
of critical examination, which cannot make good their 
pretensions on the ground of Rational sanction. It has 
been as a direct result of the growth of the critical 


spirit that such irrational claims have been attacked 
and repudiated. It has been as a consequence of that 
critical repudiation that the ideal of equality of rights 
has been established ; and it is upon that affirmation 
and that repudiation that the modern spirit of justice 
and all its ethical consequences are founded. 

Considered abstractly and isolatedly an individual has 
no rights. A right presupposes a contract ; and there 
exists no formal or tacit contract establishing any of 
the claims advanced in relation to life, liberty of conduct, 
of thought or speech, property, or any other demand 
made on the social organization by individuals or classes 
in the name of right and justice. The affirmation of 
the rights of man is pure unsupported fiction and dog- 
matic assertion. Right only exists as a correlative of 
wrong. Apart from the circumstance that there are 
wrongdoers, the notion of individual right is devoid of 
meaning. It is because there have been men who have 
used their power to do violence, to oppress and exploit 
others, because there have been murderers, robbers, 
despoilers, extorters, compelling their fellow-men into 
slavery, appropriating their labour, crushing their lives 
and their minds, that the notion of ' the rights of man ' 
has arisen, the rights, namely, not to be murdered, 
robbed, exploited, crushed. The right of the individual 
is simply the right not to be wronged. Hence it is 
that all ethical law, in its primary and primitive form 
at least, is negative : ' Thou shalt not . . .' The. 
affirmation of human right is in truth the denial of the 
title to inflict wrong. It is quite true, as Nietzsche 
tells us, that ethic, morality, originates with the weak, 
that is, with the oppressed. It is protective, protestive. 
* Thou shalt not . . .' means * Thou shalt not injure 
me.' Manifestly it could never have originated with 
the oppressor himself, as a protest against his own action, 
as ' I shall not . . .' It is the expression of wrongs 
suffered by the weak at the hands of the strong ; it is 
the protest of the oppressed against the powerful. The 
oppressed weak are always morally in the right. When 
they protest against power, they are protesting against 
moral wrong : when they defend their interests, their 


concrete ' rights/ they are defending moral Right, 
righteousness. Their interests and those of abstract 
morality necessarily coincide. From the nature of the 
case rebels are always right. Kings were right against 
pope and elnperor ; barons and priests were right against 
kings ; the middle class were right against barons and 
priests ; the proletarians are right against the middle 
class. The weaker are morally right. 

And the powerful are always morally wrong. 
Primarily power and wrong are coextensive. All 
power wielded by man over man is an aggression. That 
power, the object of human competition, seeks the profit 
of the strong at the cost of the weak ; all power 
encroaches on equity, is unjust, oppressive. Even when 
expedient as an administrative function, or necessary 
as guidance and protection, or beneficial and blessed as 
leadership, power, of its own nature, inevitably tends 
and turns to abuse and oppression. 

It has long been discovered that absolute power is 
intrinsically bad, no matter who exercises it. The Eng- 
lish came to perceive very definitely that to give absolute 
power to a saint would mean throwing open the gates 
of hell. Absolute power has been abolished not because 
rulers are bad men, but because absolute power is 
necessarily bad. Lord Acton well said, " Power tends 
to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great 
men (meaning powerful men) are almost always bad 
men, even when they exercise influence and not authority^ 
still more when you superadd the tendency or certainty 
of corruption by authority." In English history there 
is scarcely a sovereign from William I to George I 
who, tried on the count of murder alone by the same 
standards as common delinquents, would have escaped 
the gallows. 

It is not at all a question of deliberately abusing 
power, of ' yielding to the temptations of power/ it is 
not a question of 'wickedness.' It is an inevitable 
consequence of the fact that power -thought is inseparable 
from the exercise of power, that the mind of the power - 
holder ceases to move in the orbit of rational thought, 
that his mental processes become inevitably stricken with 

POWER 273 

the disease of falsification by power -thought. He may, 
with all the force of his intention earnestly exercise his 
power in the service of humanity, yet he can only do so 
by power -thought ; he wields power, therefore he is 
right in the manner he wields it. The very best moral 
intentions in unchecked power are stultified by the very 
fact of power in the service of individual opinion, and 
by the falsification of judgment inseparable from that 
fact. The saint and the philosopher are every whit 
as pernicious in possession of absolute power as the 
raving despot. Louis IX of France was canonized not 
only by the Church, but by universal opinion, as the 
ideal of a crowned saint whose sole end was righteous- 
ness and his people's good, yet he was in fact a villainous 
persecutor, and we have already had occasion to note 
in his own words his amiable conception of his duties. 
It would be difficult to point in the Renaissance period 
to a figure more perfectly admirable in its quiet wisdom, 
idealism, and gentle heroism than that of Sir Thomas 
More ; yet his one brief spell of power as Chancellor 
of England is marked by bloody and heinous persecu- 

What is true of absolute power is correspondingly 
true of all power whatsoever in every form and in every 
degree ; whether it be the power of privilege, or of the 
strong hand, of money, of mere intellectual authority, 
whether it be that of a ruler or of a Jack -in -office, of 
priest or demagogue. It results in injustice not because 
men are wicked, but because power corrupts moral 
judgment. The power of an autocrat is not indeed 
by any means the worst evil. Far more deeply pernicious 
is that of a class ; for the authority of the approved 
morality it creates is proportionate to the numerical 
strength of that class. The very worst and most 
immoral tyranny is that of a majority. 

Paddy's proverbial attitude of being * agin the 
government ' is the expression of the universal law that 
all power, no matter by whom exercised', tends to abuse 
and injustice ; the chances are, therefore, always ten to 
one that in order to be on the side of right you must be 
' agin the government.' 




Primarily and essentially morality is nothing else than 
protest and resistance against power. In a mere state 
of nature the strong man has it in his power to cudgel, 
maltreat, reave, rob, despoil and kill the weak. What 
is to prevent him from so doing? Anteriorly to the 
development of a moral tradition nothing whatever, no 
sentiment, or categorical imperative, or sympathy. 

There is no such thing as an inborn, inherent moral 
conscience. Conscience is a social product. So far 
is the strong man from being restrained by any 
conscience that, on the contrary, his feelings are highly 
flattered by the consciousness and exhibition of his 
power. His wigwam is hung with the scalps of his 
victims ; the spoils of his depredations are ostentatiously 
displayed. The praises of his strength which none dare 
resist are sung by his poets. He is the ' hero,' the 
strong man celebrated by the bards from Achaean court 
to Icelandic hall, the noble, the aristocrat of the historian ; 
till, in another age, he becomes the * successful man/ 
the self -helper of Sir Samuel Smiles. " Seldom hast thou 
provided wolves with hot meat," scornfully exclaims the 
coy daughter of the Jarl in the idyll of the Saga, spurn- 
ing the suit of Egil, " for a whole autumn no raven hast 
thou seen croaking over the damage " ; but the hero 
conciliates and wins her by proudly singing : " I have 
marched with my bloody sword, and the raven has 
followed me. Furiously we fought, the fire passed over 
the dwellings of men ; and those who kept the gates 
we have sent to sleep in blood." Heroic and mag- 
nificent, not in their own sight alone, is the boundless 
fiendishness and treachery of the wild beasts of the 
Italian fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, of the Sforzas, 
the Visconti, the Baglionis, the Malatestas. Matarazzo, 
the chronicler of the Baglioni, exhausts every epithet 
in giving vent to his admiration for those ruffians. 
Grifonette who, for no other motive than ambition, 


slaughtered nearly the whole of his relatives in their 
beds, " sembrava an angiolo di Paradiso " ; Astorre 
is compared to Mars, and Gianpaolo, who, like the rest, 
murdered many of his kinsmen and his own wife, was 
"a valiant and gallant knight of almost divine talent." 
And after aeons of morality is the millionaire exploiter 
of to-day incommodated by qualms of conscience? Is 
he not, on the contrary, inordinately proud of himself? 

The innate and original psychological correlative to 
power and every abuse of it, every evil-doing, is not 
at all contrition or a guilty conscience, but exultant 
pride_.. Pride is the accompaniment of power. Every 
form of pride and ostentation is a display of power and 
injustice ; despotic pride, aristocratic pride, martial 
pride, pride of birth, pride of wealth the glorifications 
of abused power. Is not pride the last and most per- 
sistent attribute of the wielder of power, his last 
infirmity? When all is lost, when he has been dis- 
possessed, brought to justice, a grand heroic aureola will 
yet surround him to the last, wherein he will with 
magnificent gesture cloak himself, and contemptuously 
turning to the canaille, proudly exclaim : "I have 
treated you as dogs." 

Of such kind is the ' innate conscience ' of powec. 





How, in a humanity that is gratified and flattered by 
the exercise of power, whose conscience exults in the act 
of oppression, is, like all nature, like all animality, 
cruel, and declares force and craft to be admirable- 
how can a moral conscience arise at all? How can 
any restraining idea giving the lie direct to nature, to 
the inevitable judgments and values of power -thought, 
introduce itself, come into existence and develop? 

That strange phenomenon has had two distinct, succe3- 
sive origins : one primary in the primitive herd, the 
other secondary in differentiated society. 

The primary genesis of morality has taken place in 
a quite automatic and inevitable way in the primitive 
human herd. The propensity of the strong man to 
bully and kill is very soon and very naturally felt to; 
be a peril to all weaker men. He is a danger to all. 
He must be stopped, he must be ' punished.' Even the 
strong man can be overpowere r d by numbers if he runs 
amuck. And as every member of the tribe, even the 
strongest, may at any time find himself in a position 
of disadvantage with regard to another, it very soon 
becomes a tacitly accepted principle that one member 
must not kill or do violence to another. The sixth 
* commandment,' as likewise the seventh (the female 
being one of the earliest forms of property), and the 
eighth, are automatically established conditions of gre- 
garious existence. They establish themselves by the 
force of circumstances even before the appearance of 



spoken language and formulated thought, even before 
the appearance of humanity. They are immediate 
necessary results of gregariousness . 

The self -protective putting down of a dangerous indi- 
vidual evolves very naturally from a feeling of fear 
and prudence, into one of anger, of * righteous ' indig- 
nation. The dangerous man becomes the ' bad,' the 
' wicked ' man. The deterrent dread of the community's 
anger becomes, on the other hand, a shrinking from 
its disapproval. The man who is ' tempted ' to use 
his advantage to the detriment of another, is primitively 
restrained by fear of the consequences. But has he not 
himself been with the rest of the tribe ' righteously 
indignant ' at acts of despotism in others? Has he not 
denounced others as ' bad '? To the fear of the con- 
sequence is added a sense of consistent shame ; the 
deterrent motive becomes * conscience,' self-respect, a 
point of honour. When the strong man finds himself 
in a position to take advantage of the weak, his self- 
esteem, his jealousy of his good name (a type of feeling 
very keenly developed in primitive man * as in children) 
will restrain him. He does not like being called 
1 bad ' : he shrinks from being an object of public 
indignation. 3 

The point of honour as a moral motive is, be it 
incidentally noted, far older and more primitive than 
any feeling of sympathy and humanity. Among the 

1 See Westermarck: Origin of Moral Ideas, vol. ii. pp. 138-9. 

* That other elements enter into the primitive evolution of the 
moral deterrent, I am quite prepared to admit. I am here 
concerned only with setting forth what I consider to be the 
essential and fundamental feature of that evolution. Religious 
ideas play an early and conspicuous part in the process. As has 
been shown by Frazer (Psyche's Task], dread of the ghost of a 
murdered man constitutes a widespread form of deterrent feeling ; 
and so likewise do the tabus attaching to property and sex relations. 
But it is easy to perceive that those religious ideas are but a 
manifestation and expression of the self-protective hostile attitude 
of the community towards violence. They are secondary and 
derivative. The gods punish what men resent. Religious feelings 
powerfully reinforce morality as when the ' bad ' man is looked 
upon not only with indignation, but with superstitious horror but 
they do not create it. 


Semites, for instance, the rigid observance of tKe code 
of honour, as in the laws of hospitality, may coexist 
with the most callous ferocity ; as when the robber 
Yacub in a nocturnal raid on the treasure-house of the 
Prince of Sistan, stumbled over a lump of salt, the symbol 
of hospitality, and by chance tasting it, retired forthwith 
without spoil. The mere fact of stumbling over a: tent- 
rope necessitates that a strangter, even] if he belong! to 
a tribe with which a blood-feud exists, should be con- 
sidered and treated as a sacred guest ; and so forth. 1 
So in the barbaric ages of Europe we constantly meet 
with acts of ostentatious magnanimity, conjoined in one 
and the same person with ghoulish deeds unscrupulously 

The simple natural mechanism of the primary genesis 
of morality is vividly demonstrated by the fact that 
where such relations and causes have not operated, no 
morality, no idea of morality, no conscience has developed 
at all. The causes which have automatically given 
rise to those ideas when operating on the individuals 
of a community, did not exist and did not operate in 
the relations between tribe arid tribe, nation and' nation. 
Hence there is no such thing as international morality. 
The combination of the weak against the strong is here 
much more difficult and uncertain. One tribe or State 
could not clearly realize that aggression against some 
other distant tribe was a menace against itself ; it was 
not its business to meet trouble half -way and convert 
the possibility of conflict into a certainty. To organize 
an alliance of menaced States against a possible aggressor 
was a complex diplomatic operation, and there was in 
most cases no guarantee that the combination would 
be strong enough to ensure its object. Conse- 
quently such a thing as international morality has never 
developed ; those human relations remain, or have 
remained until quite lately absolutely, crudely and 
primitively immoral. The very acts condemned by social 

1 See, for many further examples, W. Robertson Smith, Kinship 
and Marriage. 


morality are in the same breath glorified in international 
relations. No trace of conscience developed. Bad 
faith, theft, murder remained, as they are in the primitive 
psychology of power, not vices but virtues. In the Italian 
and European doctrine of the ' Balance of Power ' there 
came into operation a principle somewhat resembling in 
its operation that of primitive herd -equilibrium ; and 
it consequently gave rise to some ideas of international 
right, of international law. But it was obviously extremely 
crude and ineffectual in its action, and it is only to-day 
that by the scheme of a * League of Nations ' the 
artificial construction of the very mechanism which has 
automatically brought the idea of morality into the world, 
is being contemplated. 



The fact, which presents itself as a difficulty to the 
conception of moral progress, that many of the lowest 
and most primitive tribes are more moral than civilized 
communities is perfectly true in a sense. They are 
moral from the absence of the conditions of immorality, 
in the same way as beasts are more moral than 
men. Perfect morality is maintained by the automatic 
operation of the laws of primary gregarious morality. 
So long as that state continues morality is secure. 

But let any form of personal or class power arise, let 
any difference establish itself, as between conquerors and 
conquered, priests and laymen, owners and non -owners, 
and the entire foundation of the primitive condition of 
mutual abstention is at once entirely destroyed. There 
is then no motive whatsoever why the strong should not 


do as he pleases with those whom he holds in his power. 
No restraint will arise front the action or opinion of his 
fellow-masters. Quite on the contrary, it is their interest 
that their own power and privilege should be upheld, 
and it is most strenuously upheld by every notion, estimate, 
system of moral values obtaining amongst them. 
Established opinion, that is, the opinion, the morality 
of the dominant class, will emphatically justify and 
sanction the aggressor. 

We have then to do with a second genesis of morality, 
quite distinct from that which is the automatic outcome 
of the gregarious state. When a system of dominant 
powers and prerogatives, upheld and sanctioned by 
an equally consolidated body of opinion, supplants the 
promiscuous equalitarian community, the primitive law 
of mutual abstention ceases to be operative. 

That primary morality of gregarious origin actually 
favours the immorality introduced by the differentiation of 
power. For it supplies it with the already existent moral 
values, with the portentous words * good ' and ' bad,' 
* right ' and ' wrong ' which it has created. And those 
values are at once seized upon by power-thought and 
transformed. So that they actually come to be used 
as its weapons in the service and validation of its immoral 
position. The established power at once becomes 
' good * and * right,' and it is the resister, the insubor- 
dinate, the rebel, who becomes * bad,' 'wicked.' It 
is he, not the oppressor, who comes to suffer from a 
' bad conscience ' I 

Here then is a situation and it is that of the constituted 
world of human relationships above the most rudimentary 
phases far more desperate for the prospects of moral 
development. Not only is necessarily immoral power in 
the saddle, fairly secure against any self -defensive action, 
but the very moral values, transformed by its power- 
thought, are deflected from their original significance and 
are now: on its side. They are transposed. Wrong is 
right and right is wrong. How can that falsification 
rectify itself, how can the original values reassert them- 
selves, how can the second genesis of morality take 


Ultimately in one way only. In the same way as 
primitive morality imposed itself, in the same way as 
the powerful have imposed their will and their morality, 
in the only possible way by physical force. As the 
existing system of human relations is, in its immoral 
aspect, representative of the cold steel of oppression, 
so in its moral aspect, it is representative of the cold steel 
of revolt. Every human right, every step in the develop- 
ment of justice in human relations, has been wrested 
by actual physical force from the grasp of the holders of 

But a far greater difficulty presents itself. Estab- 
lished power is protected by a much more formidable 
defence than any physical force of which it can dispose. 
It is protected by power- thought, by its falsification of 
values, a weapon so formidable that it renders physical 
force itself almost superfluous. Just as the oppressors 
could never bring themselves to acknowledge the real 
foundation of their power, to admit that it rested on 
physical force, but have always insisted on ' justify- 
ing ' it, on regarding it as founded upon right, righteous- 
ness ; so likewise the oppressed, so long as they have 
remained under the influence of power-thought have re- 
mained loyal to their oppressors ; they have looked upon 
it as a sacred duty, an honour and 1 a glory, to toil, to 
fight, to lay down their lives for them. The slave, the 
serf, the oriental or feudal vassal, may suffer and lament, 
but he does not dispute the authority of his oppressor, or 
rebel against it. On the contrary, he would be shamed 
and scandalized at any attack on that power. He laments 
his misfortunes as he would those arising from an earth- 
quake or a storm, without a thought of blasphemy. The 
physical force wielded by oppressors has mostly been 
that lent to them by the loyalty of their victims. It 
is through the power of intellectual and moral theories 
that they have held and exercised their mastery. The 
peasant armies slaughtering one another in the dynastic 
quarrels of their masters are glowing with patriotism. 
The Vende'an peasant is filled with heroic rage against 
those who would liberate him from his tyrants. The 
Russian serf worships his * little father.' There is 


nothing more tragically pathetic than the persistent loyalty 
of the oppressed to theiri oppressors. 

To-day when the rumblings of proletarian revolt are 
clearly audible, we are somewhat offended by the crude 
irreverence of the rebels, their brutal discard of all respect, 
their * bad manners.' But the real wonder is the old 
humility and deference of the poor, the harrowing ' sweet 
reasonableness ' of the wretch who ' knows his place/ 
who knows ' what is due to his betters/ his gratitude and 
respect for ' the gentle folks.* Our feelings are wounded 
by the brutal cynicism of the rebel, but how could our 
feelings endure the coals of fire heaped upon the heads 
of the rich and educated by the deference of the poor 
and ignorant? As if forsooth their poverty and ignorance 
were not the most stinging of reproaches. 

So long as the extra-rational foundations of privilege 
were unquestioningly accepted, claims to equality, to right, 
to justice, could not, and did not arise. So long as the 
divine nature of kingship was undisputed, every abuse 
of tyranny could exist unchallenged, so long as feudal 
power was looked upon as part of a superhumanly estab- 
lished order, every excess to which unchecked authority 
gives rise could proceed unquestioned. It is only when 
they have come to perceive that what they regarded as 
a sacred truth was a lie> that what they had been taught 
to look upon as right was iniquitous wrong, it is then only 
that the injured have rebelled. It is the exposure of the 
basic irrationality, of the justifying lie, which brings 
about the overthrow of the abuse. The oppressed have 
only revolted against tyranny or injustice, however 
atrocious, when they have clearly learned to perceive 
it as irrational, mendacious, false. 




The mental world created in harmony with the ruling 
interests of the strong is necessarily false. Necessarily, 
because that which is out of harmony with natural law, 
unjust, cannot be justified by ideas corresponding to 
facts. While the thing itself is unadapted, the theory 
of it cannot chime with the reality of things. Wrong 
can only be justified and sanctioned by a lie. The wrong 
and the lie are indissolubly correlated. And it is not 
the wronged who attack the wrong-doer, but rational 
thought which attacks the lie. The process by which 
justice is advanced is never a mere contest of force, any 
more than it is a process of conversion of the unjust. 
The system of ideas by which unjust power is ' justified ' 
must first be stripped of its halo of sophistry and sanctity 
by rational thought, must first stand out in its naked 
irrationality, before there can be any forces of revolt. 

Revolt takes place, of course, against actual grievances, 
and is therefore interested. The actual motive is interest, 
not principles. The oppressed are in the first place 
driven to revolt by actual suffering, hunger, and even by 
mere envy and greed. The revolt of the wronged is 
moral, not because they are animated 'by any high ideal, 
but because their interests necessarily coincide with 
morality. It is out of the conflict of interests or private 
ends that the principle, the tnorality is evolved. 

And since it is impossible for the utterly crushed and 
oppressed to revolt at all effectively, when they have 
done so it has usually been in alliance with other classes 
whose motives were frankly venal and interested. And 
thus that sordid element has played a conspicuous part 
in many of the most important emancipating movements. 

The powers of an omnipotent and all-devouring Church 
were first curbed by needy and rapacious nobles. The 
power of kings and nobles, that is, power founded on 
privilege, has been constantly checked and sapped, and 
finally overthrown, by the growth of another form of 


power, the power of money. The opposition offered 
by the commercial classes, by Lombard, Florentine, 
Flemish, Hanseatic, English merchants, in the later 
Middle Ages and the Renaissance, against the exactions 
of imperial feudatories, nobles, and kings, was one of the 
main checks on tyranny, one of the chief seeds of liberty. 
The enormous part played by interested purposes of 
the most fulsome kind, by sheer covetousness, in all 
the movements of the Reformation, is familiar to all. 
In Germany the secession from Rome was brought about 
by the appetite of rulers for Church lands; in Switzer- 
land the success of Zwingli was owing to the appropria- 
tion by Zurich and other cities of the domains of the 
Church. The foundation of the Anglican Churcih is one 
long story of the most utterly sordid avarice and un- 
mitigated greed and bribery. And we find everywhere, 
in every emancipating movement, the same selfish, cal- 
culating, mercenary spirit at work. The American Revo- 
lution arose from the reluctance of shopkeepers to part 
with tax-money. Even the French Revolution was 
initiated, not by starving and oppressed millions, but by 
profiteering merchants and speculators who objected to 
being taxed. 

But those facts are apt to be profoundly misappre- 
hended. The exponents of economic determinism find 
it easy to use them in representing avarice and interest 
as the sole agents at work in all those movements. 
But those agencies have never operated until intellectual 
criticism had done its work. 

As long as the world quailed in terror under the one 
paramount, exclusive thought of hell-fire, the Church 
could draw into its ubiquitous suckers the entire sub- 
stance of Europe. There was no protest, no resistance. 
Not until the twelfth century when 'the ice began to 
crack, when unquestioning faith had ceased to be 
universal, when Europe rapidly became riddled with 
heresy, did the land-hunger of priests and monks begin 
to be opposed and curbed, and kings and barons to 
cry ' Hands off.' No thought of seizing Church goods, 
of arresting the 'bleeding of their domains by Rome, 
ever occurred to German princes till Huss, and Luther, 


and Zwingli had formulated clearly the outrageousness 
of papal pretensions. Henry VIII could do nothing 
but for Erasmus and Colet and the Lollardry smoulder- 
ing among the people. The interests and cupidities of 
princes have merely been powerful auxiliaries in the 
battles of emancipation, auxiliaries which have often 
determined the victory, but were themselves but tools of 
the intellectual forces. The actual sufferers, the crushed 
and oppressed, when they have risen against tyranny, 
and barbarity, and injustice, have been interested, not 
theoretically inspired by abstract principles ; but those 
interested motives could not operate until the critical 
unmasking of irrational claims had taken place. Till 
then all the forces which make for justice are paralysed. 
Every one is familiar with the accounts of the misery 
of the French people on the eve of the Revolution, 
the crushing exactions, feudal dues, dimes, gabels, Church 
tithes, which wholly swallowed up their substance, the 
chronic famine and destitution which sent haggard ghosts 
wandering over the desolate land. It is obvious, we 
think, that such a state of things could not endure ; 
it must inevitably result in rebellion. But things were 
just as bad at the death of Louis XIV as at that 
of Louis XV,, and there was no rebellion. The 
conditions were worse in Germany than they were 
in France. On the other; side of the Pyrenees, a 
hundred years earlier, the oppression and misery of 
the people was even worse ; the country was depopulated 
by famine, desolated by utter anarchy and by exactions ; 
the people were bond-slaves, the starving population 
fled from the villages at the approach of the tax- 
gatherers, while these tore down the wretched dwellings 
to sell the materials ; armed crowds fought for bread 
before the bakers' shops more fiercely than they did 
in Paris ; the unpaid household troops begged for food 
in the streets and at the doors of monasteries. And 
yet, beyond some demonstrations against the ministers 
in Madrid, nothing happened. Or rather, the most extra- 
ordinary thing continued to happen ; the starving, 
spoliated, and tortured populace was filled with the most 
passionate loyalty towards its oppressors ; it was ready 


to die for ' throne and altar.' A few years later, when 
the power of the Bourbons was being humbled by Marl- 
borough and Prince Eugene in Germany, Flanders and 
Italy, when Peterborough and Stanhope scattered before 
them the wretched armies of Spain, the same victims 
of misrule rose everywhere in defence of their king, 
the plundered villagers scraped together all the money 
they could lay their hands on, and brought it to the 
king with tears of passionate devotion, and the peasants 
of Castile and Andalusia neutralized by their obstinate 
heroism the triumphs of Blenheim and Ramillies. 

There was no rational thought, no criticism of the 
situation in their case, no glimmer of light whereby to 
discern the source of their evils in their true aspect. It 
is that purely intellectual process of enlightenment and 
criticism which is the indispensable condition of the protest 
of the oppressed. Until it has taken place their ethical 
conceptions are as immoral as those of their oppressors ; 
their loyalty, their devotion, their endurance, their venera- 
tion, their bowing submission to the divinely appointed 
order, their contentment with the station in which 
Providence has placed them, are the counterpart of the 
ruthless injustice, the tyranny ^ the rapacity, the cruelty, 
the barbarity of the holders of power. 



But furthermore, the revolt of the oppressed, although 
instigated by the crude facts of self-interest, is never 
viewed by them for long under that aspect alone. It 


is true that class interest and general principle, must be 
felt to coincide in order that large masses of men may 
be stirred to vigorous, to desperate action. Any one 
who has ever had any share in endeavouring to organize 
collective action in support of an abstract principle 
dissociated from any perceptible and palpable utilitarian 
interest, knows full well what a dead weight of inertia 
and indifference has to be encountered. But it is a 
psychological law that the cause, the principle, the claim', 
the war-cry, which at first was adopted at the suggestion 
of an interested motive, comes in time to claim devotion 
for its own sake. The force of the interested motive 
vanishes more and more, that of the principle, the abstract 
claim increases until it completely fills the mental field. 
Exactly the same thing happens, as I have already hinted, 
in the case of unjust and oppressive power : by dint of 
repeating the theoretical justifications of injustice, the 
oppressor comes to firmly believe them ; and the tyranny 
which began with barefaced cupidity and rapacity, ends 
by dying a blessed martyr to those sacred and divine 
rights which it invented. That is how clashing interests 
become moral principles. It was not a feeling of self 
or class interest which upheld the Protestants who 
marched to the stake praising God, the Flemish women 
who, laid alive in their graves, sang hymns while their 
murderers shovelled the earth over their faces. 

Religious enthusiasm itself, that is, reforming, heretical 
religious enthusiasm, was the form which rational criticism 
assumed for a long time with the masses of the people, 
the only form which it could assume. So inextricably 
are the religious emancipating movements of European 
history entangled with aims of social and political emanci- 
pation, that it baffles the analysis of historians to 
disentangle the two. Speaking of Charles V, Motley 
remarks : '* He was too shrewd a politician not to recog- 
nize the connection between aspirations for religious and 
for political freedom'. It was the political heresy which 
lurked in the restiveness of religious reformers under 
dogma, tradition, and supernatural sanction to temporal 
power, which he was disposed to combat to the death." 
That religious sanction is by far the most common and 


important though not the sole form of justifying theory 
on which constituted despotism founds itself. Divine 
Right is the type of sanction to power. Hence religious 
heresy and criticism has always led to resistance against 
tyranny. Heretical thought has invariably been accom- 
panied, or immediately followed by revolt against estab- 
lished power. The bold teaching of Ab61ard resulted 
in the revolt of his pupil, Arnaldo da Brescia, and the 
proclamation of a republic in Rome ; Wycliff was 
followed by John Ball and the Lollards ; John Huss 
by the revolt of Bohemia ; and with the Lutheran 
reformation all the forces of social revolt were let loose ; 
the great Peasant War of Germany, the Dutch rebellion 
were its immediate results. 

With the one glorious exception of the Netherlands, 
all those efforts of resistance on the continent of 
Europe bore scarcely any fruit. The forces of coer- 
cion were too mighty. ; revolt extinguished in blood and 
fire, only tightened the fetters of oppression. Many of 
the most atrocious features of the feudal system, date 
from the Jacquerie and the Peasant War. The United 
Provinces, which celebrated their deliverance from 
Spanish tyranny and obscurantism by founding the Uni- 
versities of Leydlen and Utrecht ; and where, round 
jolly Roemer Visscheri and his accomplished daughters, 
there gathered a company which included Vossius, the 
great Grptius, author of International Law and The 
Freedom of the Sea, Brederoo the comic poet, van 
Vondel the dramatist, Descartes, Baruch Spinoza, 
Swammerdam the first biologist, van Leeuwenhoek the 
founder of microscopical science, Huygens the physicist, 
Rembrandt, Franz Hals, became the seed-bed of all 
"^liberal thought, and prepared the way for English 
and all subsequent political development. Owing to the 
inability of unarmed English rulers to enforce * law, 
and orderi/ England's laws and England's political order, 
became an envied example to the world. Nearly every 
step in the struggle which built up English liberties, 
wore a religious aspect. But those struggles were fruitful 
of results, not because they were religious, but because 
they were Protestant. Catholic religious enthusiasm in 


France, in Spain, in England, produced, not liberty, 
but tyranny, not Commonwealth and Declaration of Right, 
but St. Bartholomews, quemaderos, and Bloody Maries. 
Protestantism meant, so far as it went, criticism, rational 
revolt against dogmatic authority, attacks by private judg- 
ment, whether acknowledged in principle or not, on con- 
stituted lies. The attitude of Protestantism, of No- 
Popery whatever dogmas and fanaticisms it might hug- 
was towards the audacious unveracities of the old 
orthodoxy, towards priestcraft, hocus-pocus (hoc est 
corpus), identical with that which rational criticism would 
have adopted. The Lollards and Independents treated the 
sacred and holy things of the established cult in exactly 
the same blasphemous and sacrilegious way as the sans- 
culottes. The Protestant speaks of Catholicism in the 
self -same words as the most * vulgar, ' and * offensive ' 
militant atheist. The throwing off of injustice and 
despotism, and later, as a necessary consequence, the 
extension of humanitarian principles, has been accom- 
plished in England by the Protestants, and by those 
shades of Protestantism in particular which were furthest 
removed from constituted religious authority, by Inde- 
pendents, dissenters, puritans, nonconformists, evan- 
gelicals. Whiggism and liberalism are traditionally 
associated with nonconformity. The contemporary pietist, 
who states that England's greatness is due to the Bible, 
is not altogether wrong ; it is due to the Bible in so far 
as the Bible stood as the symbol of the right to private 
interpretation, as against theocratic absolutism. .While 
Europe still lay sunk in mediaeval barbarism, England pre- 
sented by contrast the spectacle of a land of freedom, and 
was, not without right, conscious of superior righteousness.. 
But the liberating, force of Protestantism which had 
made the Revolution of 1 649 reached the term imposed 
by its inherent and necessary limitations. Intellectual 
development meanwhile did not stop at the phase which 
had found expression in the Protestant Reformation. 
The process of secularization went on apace;, no longer 
were the issues theological, but purely secular. From 
the great school of Padua, where from the fourteenth 
century Aristotelian tradition and that of Arabic experi- 



mental science and mathematics had commingled and 
struggled, and the contest had at last resulted in the 
triumph of the latter and a new conception of the spheres 
and methods of knowledge, a wave had swept over 
Europe on the crest of which rose Descartes and Gassendi. 
William Harvey had not only profited there from the 
lessons of Fabricius; of Aquapendente, but even more 
perhaps from those of the professor of physics, Galilei. 
Pascal, prosecuting the researches of Galilei's pupil, 
Torricelli, had weighed the air. Seeking refuge on 
the Continent from the tumults of the Puritan Revolution, 
Bacon's secretary, Hobbes, had met Galileo, Gassendi and 
Mersenne; and when the Merry Monarch, in the reaction 
against puritanical tyranny, re-entered London, the first 
person he greeted was his old tutor, who not only furnished 
him with the doctrine of his own omnipotence in the 
Leviathan, but with a lively interest in the new 
developments of the experimental philosophy. That 
interest became a universal fashion ; not only the King, 
but Buckingham, peers, prelates had their own 
chemical laboratories. " It was almost necessary," in 
the words of Macaulay, " to the character of a fine gentle- 
man to have something to say about air-pumps and tele- 
scopes " ; and the beauties of .Whitehall drove to the 
Gresham laboratories to see experiments in static 
electricity and magnetism. That dilettantism was the 
outward manifestation of deeper and more momentous 
developments of the spirit of the times in Restoration 
England the Royal Society, Robert Boyle, Hooke, 
Hallay, Newton. The efflorescence of seventeenth -century 
English science, was in turn but an aspect of the 
operation of the same spirit in every field of thought. 
One of the members of the Royal Society, Sir William 
Petty, created the science of Political Arithmetic, the 
precursor of political economy, and showed the 
agricultural labourer's wage to be fairly fixed at four 
shillings a week. As Puritan Protestantism had produced 
the Revolution of 1649, the new secular matter-of-fact- 
ness produced the Whig Revolution of 1688, of which 
John Locke was the philosophic apologist as Milton had 
been that of the Commonwealth. 


Those great developments of English thought, the 
social results already achieved by English freedom, 
wrought a profound influence upon the intellect of the 
Continent, where Montesquieu placed the English con- 
stitution, and Voltaire English science and English 
thought on pedestals for the admiration and emulation 
of all thinking men. The seed fell on fertile soil. 

In the same manner as the Protestant liberation of 
the Northern Renaissance had settled upon its lees, while 
the evolution of rational thought proceeded upon its 
course, so the intellect of Whig-revolution England snugly 
ensconced itself in smiling slumbers in the beatific con- 
templation of its unforgetable achievements, of its 
Glorious Constitution, the perfection of which nothing 
could better ; while the growth of human thought passed 
meanwhile on ; and the seeds of its English season 
fructified at the new spring in France. 

The French eighteenth century is one of the grand 
climacterics in the history of human growth. All the 
seeds which had been germinating in Europe since the 
twelfth century ripened then into fruit : a new era began, 
in its significance one of the epochs of most concentrated 
glory in the evolution of the race. Our current view 
and impression of it has been, and still is in a large 
measure, too deeply coloured by the profound detestation 
of all its tendencies that has poured upon it, to permit 
of the full magnitude of its worth being adequately 
appreciated. Our attention has for a hundred years 
been trained upon its defects and imperfections. Much 
in the theories of the philosophes (contemptuously 
so referred to by Carlyle, to avoid desecration of the 
appellation of philosopher) was crude and a priori, and 
lacking in a sufficient basis for induction ; their generali- 
zations were superficial, their shibboleths and abstractions 
trivial, their rhetoric declamatory. It is precisely 
because it was so genuinely alive and fruitful that their 
thought has outgrown its early form, and become 'old- 
fashioned.' We do not generally go to it fort inspira- 
tion because it has become renewed as living thought 
in our own blood. It is only the traditionalism which 
struggles against progress which finds inspiration in 


unchangeable authorities : when our appetite is for 
fossils, we go back to the Stone Age for our textbooks. 
When we wish to study physical science we do not go 
to Prevost, and Fourier, and Coulomb, or Lavoisier : we 
study Prevost's theory of exchanges, Fourier's theorem, 
Coulomb's balance, and Lavoisier's discoveries in modern 
scientific language and modern textbooks. 

As in seventeenth-century England science expanded 
in eighteenth-century France, widely and eagerly culti- 
vated, popularized in crowded lecture -rooms, and was 
there shaped for the first time into that organized body 
of knowledge and systematized inquiry which was to 
bear immediate fruit in the conquests of the nineteenth 
century. In all the intellectual activity of that active 
time even the most seemingly trifling, and flippant, and 
superficial a new quality, a terrible new dangerous 
virtue became awake. When the King's permission was 
requested for the performance of Beaumarchais' comedy, 
The Marriage of Figaro, he exclaimed, " But, Mes- 
sieurs, if permission is granted to perform this play, 
one ought to be quite consistent to pull down the 
Bastille! ' Figaro went through sixty-eight per- 
formances, and the Bastille did duly get pulled down. 
It was by those men, Bayle, Montesquieu, Voltaire, 
Diderot, D'Alembert, Volney, Holbach, Condorcet, and 
their contemporaries, who cast aside all conventional 
formulas, resolved to think for themselves, and, what 
is more, to speak out boldly what they thought, to own 
no other sanction or criterion than rational thought, that 
the world has been transformed. Behind them and 
around them stood medievalism in all its ignorance 
and darkness and tyranny over life and mind, for all 
the superficial veneer of refinement laid, over it by the 
Renaissance and the * Grand Siecle.' After, them is 
a changed world, the modern world. It was those men 
who threw open the portals from the one into the other. 

The Revolution the product and culmination of the 
gigantic intellectual battle stands alone among the 
events of human history. The antagonist which it faced 
was unredeemed feudalism and absolutism, in the most 
consolidated and ugliest form of its iniquity, un- 


adulterated and untouched by any evolution. On that 
one occasion in history there was no tinkering, or veiled 
issues, or compromises, or expedient formulas, or semi- 
logic, in the cry of protest and the work of reform. Only 
for a moment, in '89 and the Constitution of '91, was 
there any such genteel, mealy-mouthed, good -mannered 
reserve in dealing with evil. After that first moment, 
things were actually called by their names, and treated 
accordingly sans phrases. With a radicalism and 
drastic thoroughness destined to strike everlasting horror 
in future ages, not only gross enormities and injustices, 
feudalism, Divine Right, Sacred Majesty, but the entire 
world -system of lies and artificialities, irrationalities, root 
and branch, bag and baggage, down even to stupid 
weights and measures and calendars, were swept away 
at one fell swoop. Those newly emancipated feudal 
vassals were not content with ' glorious constitutions,' 
' ballot boxes/ ' liberal reforms within the sphere of 
practical politics ' ; they called in plain, ringing, un- 
measured words for the last consequences of rational 
thought, for plain, uncompromising justice, for equality, 
for the total and final abolition, without terms or re- 
serves, of humbug and injustice in its million forms. 
Nay, they called for it, not only fori ' the State,' not 
only for France, but for the human race. 

Of course they ' failed/ Every European govern- 
ment, England, with its Puritan and Whig liberties and 
' model constitution ' at the head of them, rose in arms 
to put down the unutterable scandal. How ragged 
Revolution held its ground against them all, and against 
priest -led peasants, and swarming traitor vermin in its 
midst, and humbled them to the dust, is one of the 
wonders of history. But in the end many of the ghosts 
of the Past came back to sit to this day in possession, 
and pour their venom on the pages of history, and turn 
up the whites of their eyes over ' the horrors of the 
French Revolution.' (More men were killed on St. 
Bartholomew's day by ' throne and altar ' than during 
the whole Revolution, September massacres, Terror and 
all.) What those audacious hot-heads, those enrages, 
what Marat and the Hebertists aimed at, still remains 


in Utopia. Nevertheless the world which they left be- 
hind them, is a realized Utopia compared to the evil 
dream which they for ever dispelled. 


I may seem to be confusing politics with ethics, social 
with moral issues. But 'the real confusion is that whereby 
such an objection is offered and such a distinction drawn. 

Mankind has been uplifted out of a past weltering 
with cruelty and, injustice, a past in which four-fifths 
of the population of Europe endured under the heels of 
their tormentors such treatment as would to-day raise 
a storm of indignation were it inflicted on dogs ; when 
men in thousands were legally flayed, impaled, quartered,, 
roasted, boiled ; when London was called ' the city of 
gibbets ' ; when none but tyrannous princes and priests 
had human rights ; when the producers of food were 
made to pay for the right to use their implements ; 
when the infamy of nameless injustice was imperturbably 
sanctified by law, acquiesced in by literature, upheld 
by religion ; when no murmur could be uttered against 
it save at the price of martyrdom. Yet no elaboration 
of professed morality has had anything to do with the 
triumph of justice which has swept away that hideous 
nightmare. No great new ethical principle has been 
discovered or proclaimed between the age of the Tudors 
and that of Victoria. Writing in the latter period, 
Buckle could actually maintain the time-honoured 
doctrine that morality never changes. No new code, 
no new moral law, no new creed has burst upon the 
world ; old codes, old moral laws, old creeds have 
instead been shaken to their foundations. 


The changes which have taken place have been 
intellectual, social, political changes. That moral evolu- 
tion whose continuous course towards higher standards 
of equity, of common justice and humanity we can trace 
through the centuries, and even within the span of 
our own memories, has been brought about by resistance 
to evil in movements which we are pleased to call 
' political ' and * social.' Irrational justifications of 
power have been challenged and become invalid, the 
invasion of individual rights by arbitrary prerogatives 
has been resisted, baseless formulas have ceased to be 
uncritically accepted, and, as a consequence, iniquity 
has been put down, and the world has grown better 
because the relations between man and man have become 
more just. The readjustment of human relations has 
taken place, not through any mysterious growth of moral 
sentiments, not through any reform in the conscience 
of wrong-doers, but through the resistance of the 
wronged. It is to the revolt of reason which has clinched 
its arguments with pike #nd powder that we owe that 
measure of moral decency which graces our present 
civilization, and distinguishes Europe from Dahomey, 
the twentieth century from the sixteenth. Justice and 
humanity have been promoted not by ethical codes or 
Platonic discourses, but by the curtailment of powers 
established on unreason, by liberty, by democracy. 

Democracy is the worst form of government. It is 
the most inefficient, the most clumsy, the most un- 
practical. No machinery has yet been contrived to 
carry out in any but the most farcical manner its 
principles. It reduces wisdom to impotence and secures 
the triumph of folly, ignorance, clap -trap and demagogy. 
The critics of democracy have the easiest of tasks in 
demonstrating its inefficiency. But there is something 
even more important than efficiency and expediency- 
justice. And democracy is the only social order that 
is admissible, because it is the only one consistent with 
justice. The moral consideration is supreme. Efficiency, 
expediency, even practical wisdom and success must go 
by the board ; they are of no account beside the 
categorical imperative of justice. Justice is only pos- 


sible when to every man belongs the power to resist 
and claim redress from wrong. That is democracy. 
And that is why, clumsy, inefficient, confused, weak 
and easily misguided as it is, it is the only form of 
government which is morally permissible. The ideal 
form of government is an enlightened and benevolent 
despotism ; but that is an absolutely unrealizable dream 
much more visionary than any democratic Utopia. There 
can never be an adequately enlightened and justly 
benevolent despot. Your philosopher king is not a 
practical success. Put a Sir Thomas More in power, 
and you have a Torquemada ; your ineffectual Marcus 
Aurelius is succeeded by a Commodus. Justice is only 
possible through the diffusion of power, and it is in point 
of fact by the progress of democratic power that the 
progress of justice has been brought about. 

And justice is the whole of morality. To do wrong 
is to inflict wrong, to injure. There is no other 
immorality than injustice. So manifest is that truth 
that it never occurred to the ancients in their best 
days to regard it as otherwise than self-evident, and 
the connotation of the words Si/ccuoo-wr; and justitia 
was with them equivalent to that of our terms virtue, 
righteousness, morality. It has taken centuries of 
oriental ethics to obscure that simple truth. 

All forms and aspects of morality which are not 
mere conventional figment and immoral pseudo -mor- 
alities, are in truth but aspects of justice, rights that 
have to be defended against the encroachrnent of power 
to do wrong, rights oppressed by irrationalities and lies. 
Sentiments of humanity, respect for human life, com- 
passion for suffering are in fact forms of the spirit of 
justice, and all wrongs which offend against those feel- 
ings are acts of injustice countenanced in the first 
instance by the morality of dominant power. 

It is commonly assumed that the moral condition of 
a community is the result and expression of moral ideas ; 
but the order of causation is in general the exact reverse 
moral ideas are the result of moral conditions. So 
long as unresisted predominant power, predominant inte- 
rest, are free to perpetrate wrong, that wrong is neces- 


sarily countenanced and consecrated as right. The 
whole moral life of a community is necessarily deter- 
mined by the standard which, as a concrete system of 
ethics, upheld and sanctified by accredited opinion, is 
in actual operation. If the organization of a society be 
unjust, if it be founded upon the interests of power- 
holding classes, it is vain to seek for absolute standards 
of justice, even where those dominant interests are not 
directly involved. The mental law which sets the seal 
of authoritative approval on the established order, and 
pronounces it moral, likewise shapes every ethical 
estimate under that order. Divine law always conforms 
to the type of established human law. Some barbari- 
ties have not been direct acts of encroachment on 
the part of a dominant power and subservient to its 
immediate interests, but they were countenanced by the 
character of those encroachments. And it is through 
the action of rational criticism that barbaric custom 
and inhumanity, like the abuses of legitimized power, 
are eliminated. 





THE favourite doctrine that moral sentiments have arisen 
out of a natural feeling of sympathy or commiseration, 
adopted by Schopenhauer and by Darwin as the chief 
factor in the genesis of ethics is, I believe, entirely 
erroneous. Feelings of sympathy, of commiseration, of 
humanity, instead of being the source, are on the contrary 
the product of moral judgment. The moral feeling is 
posterior to the fact of moral practice. It is after a 
course of conduct has become established as right, after 
an injustice and inhumanity has been abolished, that the 
corresponding feelings of pity, sympathy, become de- 
veloped. What is regarded as right and proper, or 
even merely as customary, does not awaken commisera- 
tion and sympathy. Those feelings, if any germ of 
them exists at all, are dismissed and suppressed when the 
transaction is unquestioningly accepted as praiseworthy. 
If Queen Louisa of Spain was touched with pity when 
she turned her head away at the harrowing appeal of 
the Jewish girl, who with a number of others was led to 
the stake amid the festivities of the royal marriage, the 
passing feeling must have been severely checked as a 
sinful thought . 

Nothing is more remarkable in this connection than 
the fact that witch persecution passed away without a 
single protest ever being raised against it on the ground 
of morality. Not a voice was heard in denunciation 
of the most hideous form of murderous savagery in 
human annals, more brutal than any gladiatorial shows 
or religious persecutions, because its victims were the 
most helpless of human beings. And it was in Scotland, 


in puritanical England and in New England, when the 
influence of moralistic cant was at its height, that those 
horrors attained their vilest proportions. They lapsed 
into desuetude fairly rapidly, simply because belief in 
witchcraft ceased, not because any moral indignation 
protested in the name of humanity. The abomination 
of the thing was never perceived until it had ceased to 
exist. Judicial torture was not generally regarded with 
feelings of pity. In a remarkable passage John Evelyn l 
minutely describes the torture of a suspected thief which 
he witnessed at the Chatelet prison in Paris. Although 
he mentions that the spectacle was " uncomfortable," it 
does not elicit from him a single word of indignation 
or condemnation, and the only comment which the 
hideous scene suggests to him is that " it represented 
to me, the intollerable sufferings which our Blessed 
Saviour must needs undergo when his body was hanging 
with all its weight upon the nailes of the crosse." 

We have noted that the old notion that very primitive 
communities are in many respects more moral than highly 
civilized ones, is not altogether an illusion. But the 
reason is, as we saw, that the head source of immorality 
the existence of privileged class -power does not exist 
in those communities. The savage is not morally more 
advanced, but the occasion for morality has not yet 
arisen. That the primitive morality of the savage is 
not the effect of any delicacy of humane feeling is very 
strikingly proved by the circumstance that those very 
primitive communities which charm us by their un- 
sophisticated morality are almost invariably cannibals. 
The old travellers found it difficult to realize that those 
idyllic South Sea Islanders with whose guilelessness, 
honesty, hospitality, and peaceful natures they were so 
charmed, were habitual man-eaters. 

4\Vholesale human sacrifice was once universal. The 
substitution of animal, and later, of ritual sacrifice, arose 
from a semi-conscious rudiment of scepticism as to the 
real efficacy of sacrifice. As long as it was firmly 
believed without a shadow of misgiving that it was 
expedient that one man should die for the people, that 
1 Diary of John Evelyn, March n, 1651. 


the desired object tribal safety, prosperity, etc. would 
be certainly assured by the procedure, men would not 
be likely to forgo a direct means of securing! those 
important objects ; they would have been great fools 
had they done so. The very greatness of the price 
asked a human life was a sort of guarantee of the 
return. The early Hebrew father who sent his first- 
born ' through the fire to Moloch ' was probably a 
kind father ; just as the Fijian who brained his aged 
mother was a dutiful son. The superstitious theory 
takes precedence in every case over any sentiment or 
feeling. The decay of human sacrifice and cannibalism, 
was not the effect of any mysterious and uncaused ' de- 
velopment of moral sentiment/ but a beginning of 
religious scepticism. 

Moral progress has in every case consisted not in a 
development of .feeling, but in a development of thought ; 
the rational evolution has preceded and brought about 
the ethical evolution. Of course when once injustice 
has been rendered obsolete by the pressure of rational 
revolt in a particular case, a precedent, a principle is 
created, a sentiment becomes established, just as in the 
case of the physical power of oppression which becomes 
converted into ' right/ loyalty, and all the other 
principles of oppressor morality. where successful 
resistance has continuously asserted itself against in- 
justice, the principle of justice becomes itself a war- 
cry, the moral sentiment becomes naturally extended. 
But nothing is more conspicuous than the feebleness, the 
impotence of abstract moral sentiment as such. Unless 
there be a real material interest disguised under it, or 
it be the expression of a clear rational process, mere 
moral principle has scarcely achieved anything at all 
in the betterment of the world. All history bears witness 
to the tragic futility of pure abstract moral principle. 
The morality which confronts evil without allies, merely 
in the name of morality, has always been waved aside 
as irrelevant, impracticable, quixotic, inexpedient ; it has 
never succeeded in entering * the sphere of practical 
politics.' The protest against negro-slavery which arose 
in England, where freedom had been won under religious 


banners, was for a long time a hopeless cause ; the 
enthusiasts who espoused it were near losing heart. 
Negro slavery was abolished as an inevitable logical 
consequence of the rationalistic thought of the French' 
eighteenth - century philosophers, and Wilberforce 
lamented bitterly in the House of Commons that it 
had been left to " atheistical and anarchic France " 
to accomplish that for which he had so long striven 
in vain. Duelling did not die out in England on moral 
grounds, but because it came to be thought foolish and 
absurd. And it is very manifest that war will ulti- 
mately be abolished not because it is an atrocious crime, 
but because it is an intolerable nuisance. 

If I do not discuss a province of morality which by 
a fantastic usage commonly monopolizes in popular 
language the connotation of the term, namely, sexual 
morality, it is not only because the theme is too far 
and deep -reaching in its manifold bearings to be 
adequately dealt with here, but because no evolution 
is as yet to be traced in regard to it ; for the simple 
reason that from time immemorial to the present day 
sexual morality has been entirely dominated by the con- 
ception of woman as a proprietary article, and the 
breeder of heirs to property and caste. The infliction 
of countless wrongs upon women, the shifting upon them 
of every burden of factitious disaster arising from 
passion, as well as its unnatural stimulation by the 
entire apparatus of prudery, ' modesty/ restrictions, 
clothes, are all alike products of the institution of 
despotic proprietary possession which in turn is the 
foundation-stone of our social order. To * covet thy 
neighbour's wife ' was as wicked as to covet his ox, 
or his ass, or anything that is his ; nay, more so, for 
is not every woman the possible mother of an heir to 
property? Hence must her body be regarded as sinful, 
tabu, and be carefully veiled and hidden. The root- 
injustice never having altered, there is little to choose 
between the sexual morality of one period and that of 
another. Orgies of ' purity ' have naturally alternated 



with orgies of enhanced licentiousness, but no process 
of rational evolution can be exhibited. But now that 
the momentous question is happily coming to be debated 
in all its aspects, and that woman like man is claiming 
power of protest and resistance, this much at least must 
appear clear. that all hope pf setting right the jnountain- 
mass of evil, suffering and injustice fori which it stands, 
lies solely in the resolute facing of facts as they are, 
in the ruthless disregard of tradition and convention, 
prejudice, shams and spurious values, no matter how 
iJmmemorially consecrated, and in resistance to the powers 
founded upon such. The law of moral progress is the 
same here as elsewhere the abolition of injustice 
through the destruction of lies by rational thought. 


The two things, intellectual development and moral 
development, far from being, as is commonly pretended, 
two totally distinct and unrelated aspects of human 
growth, following each its separate course irrespectively 
of the other, are on the contrary found everywhere 
and always indissolubly associated. Barbarism does not 
only mean a rude material life, a primitive fashion of 
clothes and dwellings, rough tools, ignorance, illiteracy, 
superstition, it means also inhumanity, cruelty and in- 
justice. Culture and civilization do not represent arts, 
material comforts, knowledge and intellectual 'interests 
and achievements only, but a greater measure of equity, 
humanity and justice in the life and relations of men. 
The moral development of a people in all ages bears 
an exact proportion to its degree of intellectual com- 


petence and rationality. Wherever vigorous intellectual 
growth takes place, there also the conduct, the mores, 
the morals of the community stand through their fairness 
and mercifulness in .contrast with those pf their barbarous 
and superstitious neighbours. 

The culture of the first theocratic empires was crude 
and sterile ; so was their ethics. But it marked an 
advance above primal savagery as notable as the intel- 
lectual achievements of Babylon and Heliopolis. The 
dawn of material and intellectual culture was also that 
of moral ideals. Semitic and Egyptian civilization have 
emerged shamefacedly from their infant phase of human 
sacrifice and cannibalism. In a dim and confused, but 
zealous and enthusiastic way they recognize and pro- 
claim moral ideals. They have no clear principles, they 
are incapable of defining the ^nature, the why and where- 
fore, of right and wrong ; the form of their ethical 
notions is still largely that of the savage, an enumeration 
of tabus and rituals, things to be done and things for- 
bidden, decalogues ; they are divine commands ; justice 
and mere rites are grotesquely muddled together, 
abstention from murder and Sabbath observance are 
tabus of equal importance and authority, philanthropy 
and phylacteries stand on the same plane of moral obli- 
gation. But there has arisen amongst them nevertheless 
the concern for morality, the conception of right which 
finds expression in Ptah-Motep and in the code of 
Khammurabi, in the Psalms of Babylon and in the 
various religious poetries which she inspired. 

But it is to Greece, the renewer of mankind, the 
uplifter of human evolution to a new level, to rational- 
istic Greece that we must turn for the foundations of 
ethical development also. Of that activity which un- 
locked every portal of intellectual inquiry, quite the 
largest proportion was devoted to ethical thought, to 
wrestling with the problems of conduct, to the building 
of the conception of ideal right. As part and parcel 
of that mighty intellectual unfolding, infused through 
all its manifestations, was the ideal of man's worth, of 
the beauty of his purpose and conduct, matching that 


beauty of his body which inspired Praxiteles and 
Polycleitos. The ethical thought of Greece, like all 
else that she has put forth, has fed all that came after 
her. As in art and in literature, so here also the 
foundations and principles which she laid down have 
been the standards which have shaped the world's 
thought. Nay, to a far greater extent than in either 
art or literature, the results of Greek thought upon the 
question of right conduct, of just life, which she was 
the first to make the object of discussion, have remained 
the highwater-rriark of what man has been able to 
think upon that subject up to the coming of quite new 
conditions of knowledge, have indeed been in advance 
of his capacity for many subsequent ages. 

Yet so longf has our European thought been under an 
influence committed to the depreciation of that aspect 
of the legacy of Greece, with a view to the extolment 
and glorification of what passes for the Semitic ideal, 
that the ethical achievement of Hellas ha,s been prevented 
from towering on our horizon with the same transcen- 
dence as the other fruits of her creative power. Even 
a Matthew Arnold and a Seeley could, under the heavy 
incubus of that influence, play upon the leit-motiv of 
the superiority of Hebraic over Hellenic ethical inspira- 
tion. We shall presently have occasion to note how 
radically false is that traditional estimate. 

Ethical thought manifesting: itself in principle and 
precept is, as I have said, not the true measure of 
moral development. But the case is somewhat different 
when we have to do, not with the unctuous profession 
of fine sentiments consecrated by secular standards, but 
with principles propounded for the first time, which are 
accordingly the living expression of real growth. That 
Hellenic ethical thought, like her philosophic and scien- 
tific thought, was not decisive, was an inevitable conse- 
quence of the lack of scientific data and of the conditions 
of the ancient world. Only the modern age, with its 
systematized experience and its adequate perception of 
universal processes and relations, is in a position to 
approach the root of those problems. iWithout anthropo- 
logical data, without the conception of evolution, without 


co-ordinated natural knowledge, it would be as futile 
to expect to find the Greek thinker seizing upon the 
essential meaning and relations of ethics, as to expect 
Pythagoras or Archimedes to discover cathodic rays. 

But apart from extensions and reconsiderations which /> 
are only just now beginning to be possible, it was ^ 
Greek thought which created all those ideals which have 
up to the present constituted the moral sense of Europe ; 
and it went indeed far beyond even the professed and 
theoretical expression of European morality for many 
centuries. .We are apt to fail in appreciating the evolu- 
tion of what is to us trite and commonplace, and to 
realize what an achievement lay in its birth into the 
world. Greece not only enounced the paramountcy of 
moral right over all human goods whatsoever, but in 
a world which implicitly acknowledged the lex talionis, 
an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth, affirmed 
that " it is wrong to requite injustice with injustice, 
to inflict evil 1 upon any man, whatever we may have 
suffered at his hand." The dying Perikles rejoiced 
above all his claims to honour " that no Athenian had 
ever mourned on his account," and the dying Socrates 
that he felt no anger against those who had voted for 
his death. And consider, for example, the attitude of 
Greek thought towards the notion of punishment that 
since all evil proceeds from ignorance and folly it 
calls, like a disease, for the healing hand of the moral 
physician and not for senseless retribution; to punish 
is in the Greek speech * to make just ' Si/caioui', * to 
make temperate ' a-axfrpovL^ew. It has taken twenty 
centuries for Christian Europe to catch up to that plane 
of judgment. And those conceptions founded them- 
selves upon faith in the natural excellence of man, " for 
no man is naturally wicked," and sought no external 
sanction but only the honour of that manhood " self- 
reverence, self-knowledge, self-control." 

Like all her products, the ethical thought of Greece 
suffered from over -abstraction, from a too detached 
intellectualism. It was first and foremost as thought 
pure and simple, rather than as thought struck out 
from the sharp contact with experience and life, that 



it took shape. It was only later, in the world-contacts 
of the concrete Roman mind, that it attained the full 
glow and fertility of its ripeness. Yet originally, as 
the Greek was the intellectual superior of the Roman, 
so was he his ethical superior also. The hardness of 
Rome, her coarse tastes, her gladiatorial shows, never 
could acclimatize themselves on Hellenic soil. Intellect 
told inevitably on the moral nature of the Greek, even 
though it was essentially an abstract fruit of thought 
rather than of life that his ethical spirit developed. 
The moral philosopher, the representative Greek, a 
Socrates, a Perikles, a Euripides, with all their thought - 
detachment, do not present themselves to us as pious 
blackguards like a David or a Solomon. With the 
effulgent growth of the Greek mind, there went a quiet, 
great and real moral redemption ; the Draconian code 
was but a softened redaction of the usage, the morality 
of the primitive Greek tribes, and to full-grown 
Greece it became a proverbial by -word of ferocious 
brutality . 

It is under the influence of Greece that both 
intellectual culture and humanitarian spirit grew on Latin 
soil. The one accompanied the other from the day 
when Carneades, in the interval of a diplomatic mission, 
lectured on justice, and initiated the Greek conquest 
of Rome. The aboriginal virtus of Rome, whose 
energy was absorbed in struggle, domination, and organ- 
ization, was valour and patriotism, filial and civic 
discipline, and issued forth in a certain grand punctilio 
of honour in her dealings with foes and conquered 
people, as, for instance, in the rule never to attack 
without previous declaration of war, in the strict and 
at times heroic keeping of faith. It was as Hellenic 
influence became more and more complete, as all the 
mental culture and inspiration of Rome became Greek, 
ceased to be antagonized by the native sternness of 
the fighter, and was felicitously combined with her native 
orderly genius fori organization, government, law, her 
natural seriousness and! stoicism, and her long habit 
of balancing conflicting claims, that the great and 
glorious growth of Roman morality, humanitarian 


thought and legislation proceeded to develop. From 
that influence and combination resulted the most 
important fructification of ethical ideals which the world 
has seen, ideals which were, as we shall have occasion 
to note, in many respects false, which suffered at their 
very root from an original and irremediable deflection, 
but which nevertheless have served the world for ages 
as the guiding and guarding lodestar of moral 
authority. For in truth those fixed and accepted 
standards of moral law, the spirit which has stood for 
the categorical ethical imperative throughout the 
development of Europe, are particularly the product of 
Rome. The foundations and fertilizing 1 impulse came 
from Greece, and, both through Greece and directly, 
from the old religious spirit of the East ; but 
in the final form and character which it assumed 
and in which it has been handed down to the modern 
world, the * eternal and absolute ' laws of righteousness, 
and those which stand for the equity of just dealing, 
the entire ambit of traditional European moral ideas 
is Roman. 

To the intellectual culture of Islam, which has been 
fraught with consequences of such moment, corresponded 
an ethical development no less notable in the influence 
which it has exercised. The fierce intolerance of 
Christian Europe was indeed more enraged than 
humiliated by the spectacle of the broad tolerance which 
made no distinction of creed and bestowed honour and 
position on Christian and Jew alike, and whose [prin- 
ciples are symbolized in the well-known apologue of 
the Three Rings popularized by Boccaccio and 
Lessing. It was, however, not without far-reaching 
influence on the more thoughtful minds of those who 
came in contact with Moorish civilization. But barbaric 
Europe confessed itselfj impressed and was stung to 
emulation by the lofty magnanimity and the ideals 
of chivalrous honour presented to it by the knights of 
Spain, by gentlemen like the fierce soldier, Al-Mansur 
who claimed that, though he had slain many enemies in 
battle, he had never offered an insult to any an ideal 


of knightly demeanour and dignity which twentieth - 
century England might with profit perpend. The 
ruffianly Crusaders were shamed by the grandeur of 
conduct and generosity of Saladin and his chivalry. 1 
The ideal of knightly virtue was adopted, the tradition of 
noblesse oblige was established. Poetry and romances 
deeply tinged with Arabian ideas formed the only 
secular literature which circulated and appealed to 
popular imagination ; and a new conception of the 
place and dignity of woman passed into Europe through 
the courts of Provence from the Moorish world, where 
she shared the intellectual interests and pleasures 
of man. 

There never was an ' age of chivalry.' Like the 
golden age it has only existed as a mirage dimly 
located in the vague distances of an imaginary past. 
Poetic imagination has associated it with the brutal 
and barbaric timesi of Charlemagne, or with the 
legendary figures of a King Arthur or a Parsifal. But 
the ideal of knightliness, of courtesy and honouri 
was throughout the iniquities and abominations of 

1 Of that contrast, which might be so amply illustrated, one 
instance shall suffice. I give it in the words of Professor Palmer 
from Besant an,d Palmer's Jerusalem : "It was agreed that the 
lives and property of the defenders of Acre should be spared 
on condition of their paying two hundred thousand dinars, releasing 
five hundred captives, and giving up possession of the True 
Cross. . . . The first instalment of a hundred thousand dinars 
was given up, but Saladin refused to pay the rest, or to hand over 
the captives until he had received some guarantee that the 
Christians would perform their part of the contract, and allow the 
prisoners of Acre to go free. . . . The money was weighed out 
and placed before Saladin, the captives were ready to be given up, 
and the ' True Cross ' was also displayed. Richard (Cceur de Lion) 
was encamped close by the Merj 'Ay tin, and had caused the Acre 
captives to be ranged behind him on the neighbouring hillside. 
Suddenly, at a signal from the King, the Christian soldiers turned 
upon the unhappy and helpless captives, and massacred them all in 
cold blood. Even at such a moment as this Saladin did not forget 
his humane disposition and his princely character. The proud 
Saladin disdained to sully his honour by making reprisals upon the 
unarmed prisoners at his side ; he simply refused to give up the 
money or the cross, and sent the prisoners to Damascus. Which 
was the Paynim, and which the Christian, then ?" 


feudal and tyrannic Europe the one source of 
substantial, concrete moral qualities. That gran 
bonta de j cavalier i antichi forced by the sheer moral 
superiority of the Moors upon the brigand nobility of 
Europe, became the sole redeeming ethical grace of 
Christendom ; and the tradition has been handed down 
to our own 1 day in the notion so dear to the English 
mind of a 'gentleman.' Thus, shocking as the paradox 
may be to our traditional notions, it would probably 
be only strict truth to say that Muhammadan culture has 
contributed at least as largely to the actual, practical, 
concrete morality of Europe as many a more sublimated 
ethical doctrine. 

That ' refining,' humanizing influence which men 
have always ascribed to culture is not a mystic, obscure, 
and vague effect of elegant taste and aesthetic effeminacy, 
but the direct and inevitable result of intelligence, . 
knowledge, and rationality of thought, upon the founda- 
tions of all ethical estimates. Where people are 
ignorant, uncritical, and' irrational, they are unjust, cruel, 
ready to perpetrate and to tolerate abuses of un- 
scrupulous and unchecked power. Those abuses, those 
injustices, those cruelties become, when their minds are 
enlightened, as intolerable and impossible to accept as 
the puerile conceptions and crude world-theories of the 
barbarian and the savage. 


But some phases of highly developed culture, it is 
objected, have been profoundly immoral. Decadent 
Rome and the Italian Renaissance are consecrated 


instances which flash before the mind. Those 
phenomena, when analysed, illustrate the law which 
they appear to infringe. The immorality, the violence, 
the unscrupulousness, which are adverted to in such 
epochs, were the effect of great power and wealth in 
ruling classes, which, while commanding the fruits of 
culture and pressing them into the service of their 
self-indulgence and luxury, were nowise associated with 
its creative impulse or with any form of its progressive 
activity. That corruption was the effect of power, not 
of intellectual growth. That which offends us in those 
periods is to be met with not among* the Senecas or 
Leonardos, but in the surfeited master classes which 
had reached the limit of power to indulge their passions 
and appetites in Imperial and in Papal Rome. It was 
the product not of growing culture, but of the cul- 
mination of personal power in the Empire and in the 
Papacy . 

The phenomenon of cultured depravity is a character- 
istic of periods of transition. Culture, intellectual 
development, greatly increase the means of power, of 
gratification and self-indulgence in poweri-holders. They 
supply them with extended means of pleasure, luxury 
and display. Hence that result takes place whenever 
a class possessing* great power and wealth coexists with 
a condition of high culture which it did not produce : a 
situation which, as we have seen, is invariably one 
of unstable equilibrium. That culture may be, as 
with Rome, the legacy of a former period of intel- 
lectual activity, or, as in the Renaissance, the firstfruit 
of new circumstances leading to an influx of culture. 
It is never associated with actual intellectual activity 
in the morally corrupt class. 

Somewhat the same situation has recurred in various 
periods, in France before the Revolution, for instance, 
when modern culture was bursting through her seed- 
coverings, but feudalism, though doomed, was still in 
full vigour. Even to-day something of the same 
phenomenon may be seen in the unintellectual wealthy 
classes (affording an opportunity for preachers to dwell 
on the * materialism of the age '). To a large extent 


it constitutes that corrupting influence which is commonly 
ascribed to civilization. Wherever that phenomenon 
manifests itself we find the real intellectual element, 
whatever may be its relation to the ruling class, in 
actual opposition to it, working out its downfall. And 
the corruption is painted to us in vivid colours because 
it is painted by the hand of the indignant intellectual 
class which in the Renaissance is as loud in its impeach- 
ment of * avaricious Babylon/ as Juvenal in his 
denunciation of the dissolute plutocracy of his day, 
as the French philosopher in his indictment of Versailles 
morality, or the modern socialist in his accusation of 
the * idle rich.' The forces of which corrupt ruling 
classes avail themselves to enhance the opulence of 
their orgies of power, are those which are about to 
overwhelm them. It is largely because of the vigour 
of the forces of moral protest in periods of hi'gh culture, 
that all their abuses and corruptions stand pilloried in 
the fierce light of denunciation. 

The evil itself is necessarily a very limited and partial 
phenomenon, a particular point of view which may with- 
out difficulty be brought into focus in almost any period. 
As Professor Dill remarks, it would be easy for any 
satirical -writer of our own day to match every single 
denunciation of Juvenal. 

The consecrated conception of Roman corruption, 
traditionally cultivated as an essential part of our scheme 
of history, is by now fit for circulation only among 
the uninformed. The popular fancy picture of the 
Roman world filled with Neronian orgies which serve 
as a lurid background for the figures of Christian 
martyrs, might indeed without any historical knowledge 
be sufficiently discredited by its own inherent incon- 
sistency. For who, pray, were those Christian martyrs, 
those saintly bishops, those noble women, those Clements, 
those Cecilias, those Laterani? Were they t not Romans? 
Was it from a soil putrid with moral corruption that 
their moral enthusiasm; and fervour fructified? 

The whole notion of * corruption ' has originated 
with Roman writers themselves. What they meant by 
4 corruption ' was any departure from the Spartan 


simplicity of life, of the old peasant community. 
'* Among the examples which they think most scan- 
dalous," says Ferrero, " are many which to us appear 
innocent enough ; as, for instance, the importation from 
Pontus of certain sausages and salt fish which were, it 
seems, excellent to eat, the introduction from Greece 
into Italy of the art of battening, fowl. Even the drink- 
ing of Greek wines was during many centuries considered 
a luxury to be indulged in only on thei most solemn 
occasions. In 18 B.C. Augustus got a sumptuary law 
passed which made it illegal to spend more than two 
hundred sestercia (about two pounds) on a banquet on 
ordinary days, three hundred sestercia (three pounds) 
on Calend and Ide days, and one thousand (ten pounds) 
for wedding dinners. Even allowing for the difference 
in the value of money, the masters of the world feasted 
at a cost which we should consider absurdly moderate. 
. . . Silk was looked upon askance even in the 
most opulent periods of the empire, as a luxury of 
questionable taste because it showed off too prominently 
the liries of the body. Lollia Paulina's name has been 
handed down because she owned so many jewels that 
their value amounted 1 to some four thousand pounds. 
There are so many Lollia Paulinas to-day that none 
can buy immortality at so small a cost. . . . The boon 
companions of Nero and Eliogabalus w'ould be dazzled 
if they coulfd come back to life in any of the large 
hotels of Paris, London, or New York. They had 
seen more beautiful things, but never such reckless 
luxury. . . . Rome, even at the height of her splendour 
was poor compared with our cities. There were far 
fewer theatres and amusements. Many vices which are 
widely diffused to-day were unknown to the ancients; 
they knew few wines, they had no alcohol, no tea, no 
coffee, no tobacco. They were ever Spartans com- 
pared to us, even when they thought they were indulging 
themselves. The Romans considered it quite an ordinary 
precaution to keep a watch on tfhe individual citizen 
within the walls of his home, to see that he did not 
get drunk, or eat too much, or incur debts, or spend 
too much, or covet his neighbour's wife. In the age 


of Augustus exile and confiscation of a third of their 
property was the penalty imposed on Roman citizens, 
men or women,, for adultery, and any one was free to 
bring a charge against the delinquents. The law 
remained in force for centuries." 

Idle, ignorant rich, and insane autocrats were in 
a state of moral dissolution in Imperial Rome as they 
have been everywhere and in all ages ; but though 
the annals of every country can furnish Neros and 
Domitians in abundance, how many can parallel the 
figures of such rulers as Trajan or Marcus Aurelius? 
As we have already had occasion to note, Roman civiliza- 
tion, which by a strange and pathetic irony has been 
branded in the popular imagination as the example of 
moral corruption, was on the contrary for nothing more 
notable than as the period of most active ethical 
enthusiasm and moral development in the history of the 
world, and the outstanding legacy of Roman genius to 
humanity has been one of moral aspiration and 

I have said enough about the character of the Italian 
Renaissance to show 1 that it had in it more of corruption 
than of real culture. In its social aspect it marked 
the pouncing of beasts of prey upon the material! and 
intellectual heritage of the race, and if it coincided 
also with developments of the first moment for human 
evolution, it is because there Was also initiated then the 
fiercest round of the struggle in Which mankind has 
striven to wrest that heritage from her despoilers. It 
need, therefore, nowise surprise us that that period 
should be for utter moral corruption, unscrupulousness, 
and brutal selfishness without a parallel in human annals, 
and that the patrons of that false, vain, and insincere 
culture, should have been a Leo X, an Alexander VI, 
a Caesar Borgia, a Lodovico Sforza, a Lorenzo the 
Magnificent, protector oli the arts, author of elegant 
and vile Canti Carnascialeschi, sacker of Volterra, 
despoiler of orphans, murderer, traitor, and tyrant. 1 

1 Lorenzo has, I am aware, been duly whitewashed by sundry 
recent authors ; their evidences are unconvincing. 


One character by, which perhaps the Italian 
Renaissance exercises most fascination, by contrast with 
the tinsel artificiality of its intellectual fruits, is the 
very boldness and naturalness of its depravity, its 
unashamed individualistic animality, its undisguised 
rascality disdainful of reticence and hypocrisies, which 
so congenially blended with the more sensuous aspects 
of the pagan spirit. And we find a certain charm in 
the swash -buckler blackguardism of a Cellini, and in 
the world of gilded ruffianism which he so ingenuously 
reflected. That aspect at least was unmincingly 





THE ineptitude of the so-called sciences of ethics which 
occupy our academic chairs, stammering forth their 
feeble dogmatisms in apologetic consciousness of their 
invalidity, reaches its reductio ad absurdum when our 
principles of moral philosophy are confronted with the 
task of passing judgment upon history. 

In considering the criminal acts of unenlightened 
ages Richard I, say, putting out the eyes of fifteen 
French knights, or James I suggesting refinements of 
torture to extract confessions of witchcraft we remark 
that those worthies would not have behaved as they 
did, had they lived at the present day; the turpitude 
of their acts was not an attribute of their personal 
depravity, but of the age they lived in. Whatever 
perversity they may have naturally possessed would, 
in our own day, have taken a different and less out- 
rageous form ; the atrocities which they committed 
are to be set down to the nature of the views, 
customs, and opinions current in their day Lion- 
hearted Richard would, had he lived to-day, have 
proved himself a very gallant gentleman, his breast 
would have been resplendent with many well-earned 
decorations, and he would scarcely have controlled the 
exuberance of his indignation while reading of German 
atrocities in his morning paper and of the dastardly 
treatment of our prisoners in German cam'ps. The 
most high and mighty prince James, by the grace of 



God defender of, the faith, would have been a pillar 
of the Establishment and a zealous supporter of religious 
education, but he would not have hammered nails in 
John Fian's finger- tips. The mores, the public opinion 
of Plantagenet England were perfectly accustomed to 
worse Norman atrocities than King Richard's : a Norman 
king or baron who did not devise some egregious cruelty 
or treachery would have been an object of amazement ; 
and King Philip Augustus of France was nothing loath 
to retaliate by treating fifteen English knights in 
the same manner as Richard had treated the French. 
Public opinion in England in the sixteenth century quite 
approved of torturing persons suspected of witchcraft. 

Yet while we are thus accustomed to set down the 
atrocities and revolting moral judgments of rnen in the 
past to the barbarism and ignorance of the current 
opinions of their day, we at the same time continue to 
profess the dogma that moral good and moral evil are 
intimate personal attributes of individual ' character,' and 
to regard opinions and intellectual judgments as wholly 
outside the sphere of moral values. The two views 
stand, of course, in as flat contradiction to one another 
as is possible. They are the re duetto ad absufdum of 
the principles which govern our moral judgments. If 
in one age the grossest iniquities were committed by 
men who would/ certainly not have perpetrated them 
had they lived in another age, the attribute of moral 
' badness ' belongs not at all to their personal character, 
but to their opinions. If Sir Thomas Browne, who 
picturesquely set his face against 'ambulatory morality/ 
and Sir Matthew Hale, no less fluent in ethical theorizing, 
could assist in convicting old women of witchcraft, if 
Shakespeare could callously countenance the pillorying 
of the memory of Joan of Arc, it was not Sir Thomas 
Browne, Sir Matthew Hale, and Shakespeare who were 
morally perverse, but the irrational current opinions 
which they accepted. It was not bad men who burned 
women alive, but the Christianity of the sixteenth century. 

You cannot have it both ways. Either the conscientious 
intention is bad or the opinion which justifies it ; either 
Sir Thomas Browne was immoral or the verse of Exodus 


and the ignorance which accepted its authority ; either 
evil-doers are morally reprehensible, and no generally 
accepted opinion can be morally condemned, or the stigma 
of moral goodness and badness attaches to those 
opinions and not to the men who act upon them. 

Our current ethics are here reduced to impotent 
titubation . 

On the one hand our ethical theories justify as blame- 
less all conduct which proceeds from good intentions, a 
good conscience, steadfast principles. Our traditional 
moral estimates are concerned with ' judging ' actions 
with reference to punishment or reward. A bad action 
in terms of those notions, means a punishable action. And 
the chief, the only relevant considerations in an assessment 
of punishment or reward or their equivalent, blame or 
praise are the motives of the individual, his conscience, 
his responsibility, his intentions. 

The current doctrine, on the other hand, is that opinions 
are etliically irrelevant ; that whatever their nature, pro- 
vided only they be sincere, they are entitled to respect ; 
that they are private personal concerns for which the 
holder is not answerable to any man ; that, pertaining 
as they do to the domain of the intellect, they lie 
entirely outside that of morality ; and that no stigma 
of moral reprobation can attach to any opinion as such, 
which is held in good faith. 


At one time, when rationally irresponsible dogma and 
authority were claimed to be the foundations of belief, the 


directly opposite doctrine was held. The grossest evils 
from which the European world has suffered, have been 
the results of attempts to put down opinions which were 
regarded as wicked and immoral. The enormities of 
dogmatic intolerance produced a revolt to which it was 
found expedient to yield. The reverse doctrine thus 
received tacit assent that all opinions are equally 
entitled to respect and consideration. In other words, 
when it was found no longer possible to enforce the 
standard of arbitrary authority superior to reason, the 
assumption was encouraged that no definite standard 
of right opinion exists. It was thus possible to elude 
the necessity of recognizing the real standard of valid 
opinion rational thought, and intellectual honesty. The 
tyrannical mediaeval doctrine pf intolerance and the 
modern illogical doctrine of tolerance, are at one in 
refusing to acknowledge rational thought as the sole valid 
sanction of opinion. Irrational authority, having lost 
the 'power of effectually exercising intolerance, claimed 
the benefits of tolerance ; finding it impossible to main- 
tain the absolute supremacy and universal recognition 
of irrational sanctions, it secured the best terms of sur- 
render, by obtaining for them equality of status with 
rational sanctions. But it did more than secure the 
acceptance of the outrageous doctrine that irrational 
opinions have exactly the same moral status as 
rational opinions. Since the supporters of irrational 
authority had treated the opinions of their opponents 
as morally reprehensible, it came to be professed that 
no opinions are morally reprehensible ; thus the alter- 
native inference was eluded, that irrational opinions are 
themselves morally reprehensible. 

Thus it is that the modern attitude towards opinions 
has arisen. Rational and irrational opinions being exactly 
on the same footing, no standard of valid opinion, no 
standard of intellectual ethics, no standard of right 
judgment is recognized. Opinions are sacred and 
inviolable individual rights. Their sanctity is as jealously 
protected as that of property. The grossest irration- 
ality is secure in that protection. Every folly and patent 
idiocy can claim the same ' respect ' as the most stringent 


rational conclusion. The baby-farmer is sent to gaol, 
but the ' Christian Scientist ' is entitled to considera- 
tion and even protection for his 'honest ' opinions. It 
would be heinous to dispute his right to propagate them 
and to impose them upon tender children. If any one 
should venture to raise a doubt about the right to inflict 
deliberate and irremediable deformation on the defence- 
less mind of a child, to instil irrational prejudices, to 
teach falsehoods, to cripple effectually and completely 
his rational powers, to poison the sources of judgment, 
to rob him of his human heritage such a suggestion 
would raise a storm of righteous indignation, the cry 
would go up from the successors of the Inquisitors and 
High Commissioners that the sacred rights of conscience 
are being challenged, that it is sought to bring back the 
days of persecution and intolerance, that liberty, freedom 
of teaching, the most indefeasible rights of the subject 
are being menaced and violated. It would be as 
scandalous to dispute that the parent has as absolute a 
right to strangle a child's mind as it would formerly 
have been to dispute his right to strangle his body. To 
interfere at all with conscientious opinion is rather worse 
than bad taste. All sincere opinions are ' honest.' 
While their truth or falsehood may under proper cir- 
cumstances be debated, to apply moral judgments to 
them is itself a turpitude, and. a violation of the canons 
of debate. Hence opinions have come to be regarded as 
really of little or no ethical importance ; they are ab- 
stracted as adventitious and irrelevant. Morally speak- 
ing we have to do with good or bad men, not with 
opinions. To insist on taking opinions too seriously is 
a mark of vulgar narrowness and intolerance. W;rong 
must not be tolerated, but every opinion has a sacred 
right to be tolerated. That anarchy of tolerance is 
necessarily extended to our historical judgments ; we 
can only bestow praise ori blame on ' good ' or -' bad ' 
men ; opinions are morally neutral. 




But, as a matter of fact, the good and the bad in 
human history have not at all proceeded from the 
* goodness ' or ' badness ' of men, but from their 
views and opinions. The men who have inflicted 
the worst calamities upon the human race, opposed 
its welfare by every means in their power, obstructed 
its advance, betrayed its destinies, drenched the 
world in blood, oppressed it with injustice, the 
foes of humanity, have not been men of bad 
intentions bad men ; they have been purely and 
simply men who have held \vrong, that is, irrational 
opinions. Far from desiring to inflict injury, they have 
for the most part been actuated by a sincere and dis- 
interested sense of duty towards mankind. Torquemada, 
who died " in the conviction that he had given his best 
indeed, his all to the service of God," was a ' good 
man'; he loved humanity, he Was animated, not by 
any personal and selfish motives, but by a perfervid 
sense of duty : he roasted alive ten thousand men and 
women with the sincere purpose of benefiting them and 
the human race and quite consistently. Calvin, who 
murdered Servetus under circumstances of aggravated 
treachery and atrocity, and John Knox, who demanded 
the slaughter of every Catholic in Scotland, were men 
whose whole lives were dedicated to a paramount ethical 
ideal. Charles V, who decreed that every heretic should 
be beheaded, burned, or buried alive, and who put from 
fifty to a hundred thousand people to death in Holland 
alone, had as his supreme object the maintenance of 
true religion, and was '' clement beyond example." 

Read the expressions of Roman Catholic opinion in 
instigation and in praise of the massacres of the 
Huguenots, the paeans of* exultation over the glorious 
and meritorious deed, the pious hopes that it might 
prove but the beginning of more extensive butcheries, 
and mark the awakening of Christian princes to a sense 


of their highest moral duty. Those men spoke like 
pillars of moral conviction, their language is that of 
conscious rectitude and dignified sense of right. One 
might be reading a leading article in The Times. We 
call them bloody murderers, infamous monsters ; but 
they were in their own sight pre-eminently virtuous. The 
mind of Gregory XIII celebrating a Te Deurn over 
the St. Bartholomew was suffused with as much righteous 
pride and joy as that of Thomas Clarkson on hearing 
of the abolition of the slave-trade. It is doubtful whether 
we could even call them cruel : one French bishop on 
being informed of the plot nearly fainted from physical 
horror, but yielded to a sense of moral duty. 

The upholders of feudalism were inspired by what 
appeared to them the most noble and sacred ideals. Read 
their memoirs ; see in what light their hideous cause 
appeared to them, with what sense of playing the tvau 
role they fought against the liberation of humanity from 
the most outrageous cruelty and injustice. Their romantic 
young women were fired with heroic inspiration, ready 
to shed their blood to bring back the rack and the 
Bastille, the corvee, misery, famine, and spoliation, ready 
' to die for their king.' 

All the tyrants, the oppressors, the kings, the priests, 
the inquisitors, the reactionaries of all ages, who have 
striven to check human growth, to maintain the ugly 
past, to crush mankind, who have upheld and perpetrated 
every infamy and abomination, have had in their minds 
the loftiest sentiments, and on their lips the words which 
they accounted most sacred truth, religion, morals, 
honour, loyalty. And the things which they fought tooth 
and nail bore in their language the ugliest names error, 
blasphemy, sedition, disloyalty, treason, infidelity, anarchy, 
atheism. Those distorted terminologies were not mere 
rhetorical pretences and controversial tags ; they, as a 
general rule, truly represented the point of view of those 
who used them. Very few men indeed have ever with any 
vigour espoused and defended a bad cause, knowing it 
to be bad. All the evil which they have inflicted on 
the human race has been wrought with a clear and approv- 
ing conscience. The deepest and most atrocious crimes 



in the Newgate Calendar of history are associated with 
good intentions and conscientious purposes. It is 
' good ' men who have always been the true evil-doers, 
the most pernicious and dangerous foes of the race, 
and the blackest traitors to its highest and most vital 
interests. And the evil which they have wrought when 
they have acted as the organs of wrong opinions, has 
been in exact proportion to their ' goodness/ to their 
zeal, sincerity and conscientiousness. 

The hell of human suffering, evil, and oppression is 
paved with good intentions. The men who have most 
injured and oppressed humanity, who have most deeply 
sinned against it, were, according to their standards 
and their conscience, good men ; what was bad in them, 
what wrought moral evil and cruelty, treason to truth and 
progress, was not at all in their intentions, in their purpose, 
in their personal character, but in their opinions. 

The plain truth is that views and opinions are the 
only ethically significant, the only moral and immoral 
things. It is not what men do, knowing and judging it 
to be bad and wicked, but what they do considering 
it to be highly moral, conscientiously believing it to be 
good, which is answerable for by far the largest measure 
of the wrongdoing and injustice in the world. The 
calamities which have afflicted the human race, the crimes 
of history, do not arise from malignant intentions, but 
from excellent and erroneous intentions. The true police 
function of morality should be not to restrain bad men, 
but to restrain good men. The ' wicked man ' of the 
Nicomachean ethics who ' calmly x does wrong/ who 
habitually and systematically does what he apprehends 
to be wrong, is a rare monster. He is either 
a miserable weakling or a pathological pervert. Hie is 
exceptional. Conscious, intentional and self-condemned 
iniquity is as a drop in the ocean of conscientious, 
approved iniquity. 

And moral wrong is conscientious and approved because 
it rests upon wrong opinions. I 

The moral reformer who attacks a glaring injustice 
and perversion of the moral sense invariably finds that 
his real adversary is not at all a false sentiment or a 


deformed feeling, but an irrational falsehood about a 
four-square matter of fact. He denounces persons for 
wickedness, injustice, and finds, to his embarrassment, 
that they are in their intentions neither wicked nor unjust, 
that they believe themselves to be in the right, and that 
the real tyrant, the real evil-doer is some opinion, some 
intellectual absurdity which justifies them in their 
own eyes. 

Strictly speaking, opinions are the only indictable 
offences. And they are culpable to the extent that they 
are irrational. There is not a false opinion, an error, 
however theoretical it may appear, which is not charge- 
able with moral evil, with injustice in its consequences. 

What, for instance, seemingly more inoffensive, nay, 
almost amiable form of idiocy than that of a saintly, 
devout little Catholic lady whose feminine emotionalism 
finds its outlet in passionate indulgence in the mysticisms 
and rites of her religion? What fanatical rationalist 
would be so vulgarly tactless as to offend the feelings 
of the poor, sweet lady who spends the surplus of her 
treasures of tender emotion in sacrifice and good work? 
But give that inoffensive little lady power, set her on a 
throne, and you have Isabel and the Spanish Inquisition, 
Bloody Mary and the English Inquisition, Madame de 
Maintenon and the Revocation of the Edict, the 
dragonnades and the ruin of a kingdom. 1 Inoffensive! 
No lie in this world can manage to be inoffensive. No 
lie and no error whatever. If it has power it will be 
bloody and murderous. 

We are prone to think of intellectual inquiry, of the 
pursuit of truth, as amiable forms of curiosity. But 
in point of fact there is not an error that has not shed 
blood, not a false opinion that has not been a breeder 
of injustice. And every freedom and immunity from 

1 It is now customary to state that Madame de Maintenon had 
nothing to do with the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes. If we 
bear in mind the character of her influence on Louis XIV, the King's 
suspiciousness of being in any way led by others, the clever tact- 
fulness of his wife in guiding him without ever appearing to do so, 
and the evolution of his fanaticism from his " conversion " onward 
under her influence, we can have little doubt as to whence his 
religious policy emanated. 


wrong which we enjoy is the fruit of some intellectual 
truth. The supposed line of demarcation between the 
intellectual and the moral is a fiction. It is to intellectual 
products that moral values are applicable. 

That is true of individual opinions, but it is even more 
momentously and tragically true of those opinions which 
are widely prevalent, which constitute the established 
standards of a people, of an epoch, or of a party, which 
constitute ' public opinion.' Morality, mor]es, is custom, 
in the sense that it is dependent upon the nature of 
acknowledged and current opinions. Individual 'good- 
ness,' good intention, deliberate righteousness, a good 
conscience, simply mean conformity with the constituted 
opinions and views of the age. And the constituted 
opinions of various ages havd countenanced and supported 
every crime under the sun. If those opinions be bad, 
unjust, irrational, no degree of conscientiousness, of well- 
meaning and enthusiasm for virtue, can make an 
individual's conduct and attitude moral. 

There are at all times evil-doers who stand condemned 
by the accepted standards of their age how far their 
immorality is the effect of the irrational provisions arid 
arrangements of the age, of its injustice, is another 
question. But the ethical measure of evil resulting from 
that immorality, is as nothing by comparison with that 
which is inherent in the accepted and approved opinions 
of the age. 

It is public morality, public opinion, accepted views 
and beliefs, approved standards of judgment, and not 
at all individual character and malignant intentions which 
are responsible for overwhelming the world with blood 
and injustice. Those are the real culprits, those are 
the criminals, those are the actual malefactors. The 
immorality which has afflicted humanity is not a matter of 
sentiments, of broken commandments, of moral insensi- 
bility ; it resolves itself into intellectual ignorance, into 
irrationality which renders possible the uncritical founda- 
tions of wrong. It is in that supposedly ' intellectual " 
field that the real moral reform takes place ; progress 
in morality takes place through the overthrow of some 
view or theory which in itself is regarded as having 


nothing to do with morality. We are not under the 
influence of a higher ethical code than our forefathers, 
we are not animated by a more intense and loftier moral 
purpose than Sir Thomas Browne, or Melanchthon, or 
John Calvin, but the field of rational thought has enlarged . 
If Dominicans no longer burn heretics, judges no longer 
use the * question,' tyrants no longer exercise fantastic 
forms of oppression, it is not because we have received 
some sublime moral enlightenment. Our morality has 
improved because our intellectual "developmenT^and 
rationality have 

IV , 

The anarchy of our ethics, the stultification of our 
moral judgments, which renders possible the glorification 
of scoundrels by historians, of Frederick II, for example, 
by Carlyle, of Henry VIII by Froude, is most crucially 
exposed when the delinquent is so merely through the 
natural consequence of opinions to which even to this 
day no definite moral stigma is held to attach. 

Take as an illustration the case of Queen Marie 
Antoinette. She was a woman of considerable charm, 
and the weakness of her personal character, that she was 
appallingly ignorant and frivolous, that those entrusted 
with her education were compelled to give up the task 
in despair, that she could never read any book except 
the most trashy novels, which she took with her to church 
bound as prayer-books to while the tedium of the service, 
that she was vain and pleasure-loving were no more 


than the ordinary faults common to most fashionable 
women of her day and ours. In a court notorious for 
the looseness of its sexual morality, her conduct stands 
decidedly above the average, and above what might have 
been expected of her. Though scandal was ever viru- 
lently busy with her name, the demonstrably slanderous 
nature of most of its allegations bears witness to the 
slight ;hold which her conduct gave to defaming tongues . 
Lauzun and Fersen were possibly her lovers, but the fact 
is by no means established. In the days of trial she 
proved a devoted wife and a good mother. There is 
nothing in the weaknesses of her private life that can 
detract from the tragic pity of her career from throne 
to scaffold, or that can lessen the sympathy which the 
sufferings which she bore with dignity and fortitude 
naturally excite. 

But if we judge the Queen by the part which she played 
in the events amid which her lot was cast and on what 
other ground is any historical judgment possible or valid? 
our view must closely coincide with the fiercest invec- 
tives of the French Republicans against ' la panthere 
autrichienne.' She was the soul and centre of all the 
forces arrayed against that Revolution which was the 
greatest and most fertile impulse of regeneration, redemp- 
tion, and emancipation in the career of the human race, the 
source of all that mankind has won of freedom and justice 
in the last century. She was vowed to implacable hatred 
and hostility against it, and in order to oppose and defeat 
it every means appeared justified in her sight. She 
encouraged the King to break hi ( s pledges, she engineered 
his desertion to the enemies of his country, she unre- 
mittingly urged and incited those enemies against the 
country which she represented and against the liberties 
which her people had won ; she supplied the foe with 
every information and assistance ; she poured all the gold 
of France on which she could lay hands into the war- 
chests of Austria and Prussia. For one tithe of those 
treasons any individual would, according to all existing 
codes, be summarily shot. If the workman who made the 
iron safe is to be believed, she did not stop at murder 
with her own hand. Even that was justified in her eyes 


by the purposes of the absolutist cause. If ever France 
had an enemy it was she ; if ever the most vital and 
paramount issues of the evolution of the human race had 
a truceless and uncompromising opponent it was she. 

Can anything be more pathetic than the bewildered 
helplessness of our so-called ethical principles when 
applied to such cases? We are 'supposed to possess a 
perfectly clear notion of the distinction Between right and 
wrong ; yet when we are called upon to pass judgment on 
one who devoted herself to the defence of wrong and the 
defeat of right, our ethical assessment is virtually allowed 
to be as purely a matter of individual taste as the appre- 
ciation of an Indian curry. There is nothing in our 
standards to exclude the canonization of Marie Antoinette 
as a saint and martyr. After all, say our historians, she 
was only a foolish woman ; any aristocratic Primrose 
Dame of to-day would, placed in identical circumstances, 
have acted exactly as she did. Her attitude and conduct 
were the natural outcome of views which she regarded as 
superlatively moral. Exactly the same plea can be ad- 
vanced to justify Torquemada, Mary Tudor, the Guises, 
William Hohenzollern, and every self-righteous scoundrel 
in history. 

We have not by any means yet left behind us the 
grossness of immoral opinions. We have our approved 
and accepted opinions which breed iniquity as inevitably 
as Sir Thomas Browne's or King James's opinions on 
witchcraft . 

The inquisitor and the tyrant, the block, the stake, 
and the torture-chamber are melodramatic enormities 
which to us have become so remote that we almost 
fail to think of them as ever having been terribly real 
actualities ; they have become semi-fabulous, almost 
ridiculous in their grossness, like ogres and werewolves, 
and reference to such obsolete horrors is apt to leave 
us somewhat cold. But the psychological and logical 
relation is precisely the same in regard to what 
we consider debatable points of present actualities, moot 
views and opinions in the actual order of the world. 
Thy tyrant and the inquisitor have changed their names 
and callings, they wield less sensational weapons, but 


they are still with us, standing in the same relation as 
of yore to the cause of human destinies. 

And the same is true of the moral issues at stake 
in the present world, and of men's attitude and conduct 
in regard to them as of the most violent actions. The 
determining factors of constituted immorality in the ages 
of darkest tyranny arp the same which operate to-day 
in apparently but only apparently more innocuous 
forms. We have amongst us the same delusions of 
gross immorality believing itself conscientiously moral 
as in the days of inquisitions and witch-hunts. 

Murder and torture, however validated and sanctified 
by existing opinion, are unmistakably recognized as evil 
when those opinions have lost their force. But other 
evils may be inflicted on humanity besides homicide and 
gross instant tyranny. Lord Acton, seeking a fixed 
standard of historical moral judgment, made homicide 
the criterion. But if we look at human affairs from 
the point of view of the actual natural laws which govern 
them, even human life is not the most important con- 
sideration. Even the sacrifice of many human lives is 
not so great an evil as the setting back of the course of 
evolution for centuries. The ends of the great process 
manifested in the development of humanity, the fulfilment 
of its destinies, the compassing of justice, are objects 
even more sacred than human life. Individuals are willing 
to sacrifice life for those things ; the race does not hesitate 
to cast away lives in thousands, in millions, to sacrifice a 
whole generation for the sake of those objects. Humanity, 
which has been bleeding to death, would think its blood 
well spent if the goal of its efforts were thereby brought 
nearer, if the world were made substantially better by, 
the sacrifice. 

Yet a man may stand in open and avowed 
opposition to those issues more sacred than human life 
itself without in the least degree forfeiting his moral 
character. The one truly unpardonable sin, impiety, 
treason against the one supreme Divine Fact and pur- 
pose we know, is a matter of respectable difference of 
opinion, of politics, of cr&ed, of expediency, of what you 
will, but not a matter of morality. 


We do not burn people alive, we have no Torque - 
madas or Ezzelins among us to-day. But in the code 
of natural moral values there are blacker crimes than 
homicide. The benevolent old gentleman with whom 
you dined last night is intent on frustrating Human 
Evolution, on circumventing and defeating the Purpose 
of the race. The villains in the Divine Comedy of 
humanity are such benevolent old gentlemen. 

The conflict and struggle of which human good 
and human progress have been the outcome, an'd 
which is daily being waged for the same objects, is 
noi a battle against men, but against opinions. It 
is not recognized immorality which needs to be com- 
bated, but recognized morality. Not what is known 
as wrong, but what passes for right. And the founda- 
tion of that immorality and of that wrong is a structure 
reared not by reason, but by power-thought. The task^ 
of the forces of moral progress is an intellectual one ;. 
it does not call so much for greater purity of purpose,! 
as for more critical intellectual rectitude. 




ETHICAL thought suffered early from 1 a radical confusion 
which almost completely stultified its operation; and 
that confusion still obtains. It became stultified and 
sterilized when its point of view became shifted from 
humanity to man, from human relations in general, 
their significance as a social question, to the exclusive 
consideration of personal and individual character. 
When the Greek thinkers in the first flush and bloom 
of their enthusiasm for rational thought began to con- 
sider the question of right conduct, their first notion 
was justice, theif first ideal the just man. Afterwards, 
when in the Mediterranean world Greek rationalism 
became diluted, adulterated, and ultimately swamped 
by the influences of the Orient, that ideal became 
changed, under the Stoics and Epicureans into thai 
of the Wise man, wise, that is, in contriving to arm 
and protect himself by mental fences against the hard- 
ships and sufferings of life. The two actual religions 
of the cultivated Roman and Hellenic world, Stoicism 
and Epicureanism, had alike for their aim, not the 
regulation of the relations between man and man, but 
the formation of individual character in such a way 
that the individual might himself enjoy a comparative 
degree of immunity from the effects of the trials and 
vicissitudes of life; teaching him to make the best 
of things, comforting him. They produced an i mas 
naiuratiter Christianas. The process was carried a step 
further, and the ideal of the current philosophical 
religions, the wise man, developed into that of the 



Asiatic saint. The individual was further comforted. 
Thus the original purpose of ethics, the only one which 
possesses any meaning, its raison d'etre, the regulation 
of the relations between man and man, the elimination 
of wrong and the establishing of right, was entirely lost 
sight of and forgotten. It ceased to be the business 
of ethical thought ; and in its stead the condition of 
the individual mind, its peace and comfort, ' a good 
conscience,' good intentions, became substituted as the 
end-all of so-called morality. As the ' just man ' 
gave place to the saint, so for the notion of wrong and 
injustice was substituted that of sin, and thus mere 
equity, mere justice came almost to be thought of as 
an inferior order of moral good, and moral excellence 
came instead to be associated with the notion of certain 
exalted conditions of the feelings and emotions, and 
to be judged with reference rather to the state of the 
individual's mind than to the effects of his conduct. 

That transformation by Stoical and Epicurean thought 
of the original Greek conception of morality constitutes 
the most profound perversion which the ethical ideals 
of man have ever suffered. Morality, right conduct 
between man and man, becomes destitute of signifi- 
cance if it does not result in the actual good of mankind. 
It is shorn of its function. That function is not the 
individual's own good, his salvation, though it is in 
reality the highest condition of that good, but his 
conduct, his relation to the vaster organism of which 
he is a part. And of that actual moral relation the 
essence and foundation is justice. 

And justice is not an ethereal ideal, it is not a 
constructive conception, the created product of some 
sublime vision. It is simply the negation of wrong, 
of injustice. It demands that there shall be no despotic 
oppression, no arbitrary violence done by man to man, 
no gratuitous abuse and cruelty, that, in his life, his 
activity, his thought, man shall not be tyrannized over 
by man, by virtue of mere power, privilege, factitious 
and false authority. Those things are wrong, purely 
and wholly wrong, in whatever light we look at them, 
so long as we attach any meaning whatever to the word 


' wrong.' In demanding immunity from them, man 
demands only, as, he puts it, his right. That right, 
although not founded on the sanction of any contract, 
noc demonstrable by any legal formula, although, if 
you Kvill, quite an arbitrary claim regarded as a claim 
constitutes the fundamental demand, the root and essence 
of the significance of morality. It is right, as dis- 
tinguished from wrong. The elimination of wrong is 
the irreducible minimum of morality. Whatever lofty 
superstructure of ideal ethical emotion be reared above 
that irreducible minimum, it counts for nothing so long 
as the primary essentials of right are not secured, 
so long as wrong is upheld. Such a superstructure is 
not moral at all. In order that a man or a society 
of men should have any claim to be regarded as moral, 
they must cease to do wrong. It is of no avail that 
they should entertain sublime emotions, that they should 
live in a sustained ecstasis of exalted feeling, if they 
do not fulfil the primary condition of forgoing wrong- 
doing, of ceasing to be unjust. 

Not only is the prime function of morality obscured 
and overshadowed by the personal and ascetic ideal, 
but a radically conflicting and opposite function becomes 
substituted for it. Not right, but renouncement is the 
ideal of Stoicism, not abstention from wrong, but the 
protection of the individual from the effects of wrong. 
The object of morality is no longer to resist evil, but 
to submit to it ; not to advance justice, but to bow 
to and ignore injustice. The basal function of 
all morality becomes inverted ; it actually behoves to 
' resist not evil.' Through such a perversion the 
effect of ethical emotion, instead of being to promote 
the development of the race, comes to be the exact 
opposite. It loses all concern for the human future, 
for the means of achievement, the efforts of progress. 
All those things it rejects and denounces as ' the 
world ' ; it comes to place its ideal precisely in the 
completeness of its detachment from all that which 
constitutes the evolutionary force and life of humanity. 
It not only does not contribute to them, but despises 
them, resists, abhors them. 


Thus it is that those epochs and those societies in 
which that ideal has been in the ascendant, in spite 
of any humanitarian character they may present, in 
spite of any austerity, have not only been phases of 
harshness and cruelty, but phases of stagnation in the 
course of human progress, and have promoted neither 
freedom nor justice. 

It is a reproach commonly urged against Christianity 
that throughout its history it has constantly associated 
itself with arid: supported power and oppression, that, 
except in those rare instances where the cause of the 
oppressed happened to coincide with the political 
interests of the Church, the power of the latter has 
been generally inefficiently exercised in the cause of 
freedom, in the liberation and uplifting of classes, 
in the rectification of intolerable Wrongs, but has, on the 
contrary, been the consistent bulwark of privilege, 
despotism and established abuse. The old claim that 
Christianity abolished slavery can now no longer be 
insisted on : slavery in the ancient world disappeared 
owing to the failure of the supply, and Christianity 
had as little to do with the failure of the supply of 
slaves as it has to do at the present day with the 
failure of the supply of domestic servants. It is not 
altogether fair to charge Christianity with the support of 
Divine Right, feudalism and all established powers and 
abuses. Motives of policy influenced, not by the spirit 
of Christianity, but by human avarice and greed for 
power, the corruption of religious offices and ideals 
in hierarchical princes and powerful monks, not those 
ideals themselves, have been responsible for the part 
played by Christian Churches in opposing* every mani- 
festation of liberty and progress. But, while that 
distinction should be duly borne in mind, it must never- 
theless be admitted that that characteristic attitude has 
only been rendered possible because the idea of 
justice is necessarily thrust into the background by 
ascetic ideals. 

My friend Dr. Falta de Gracia, indeed, in his usual 

jaundiced and offensive manner goes even further. 

' The notion of justice," says the famous Spanish 


Professor, "is as entirely foreign to the spirit of 
Christianity as is that of intellectual honesty. It 
lies wholly outside the field of its ethical vision. 
Christianity I am not referring to interpretations 
which may be disclaimed as corruptions or applica- 
tions which may be set down to frailty and error, but 
to the most idealized conception of its substance and 
the most exalted manifestations of its spirit Christianity 
has offered comfort and consolation to men who suffered 
under injustice, but of that injustice itself it has remained 
absolutely incognizant. It has called upon the weary 
and heavy laden, upon the suffering and the afflicted, 
it has proclaimed to them the law of love, the duty of 
mercy and forgiveness, the Fatherhood of God; but in 
that torrent of religious and ethical emotion which has 
impressed men as the summit of the sublime, and been 
held to transcend all other ethical ideals, common 
justice, common honesty have no place. The ideal 
Christian, the saint, is seen descending like an angel from 
heaven amid the welter of human misery, among the 
victims of ruthless oppression and injustice, bringing 
to them the comfort and consolation of the Paraclete, 
of the Religion of Sorrow. But the cause of that misery 
lies wholly outside the range of his consciousness; no 
glimmer of any notion of right and wrong enters into 
his view of it. It is the established order of things, the 
divinely appointed government of the world, the trial laid 
upon sinners by divine ordinance. St. Vincent de Paul 
visits the living hell of the French galleys ; he proclaims 
the message of love and calls sinners to repentance; 
but to the iniquity which creates and maintains that 
hell, he remains absolutely indifferent. He is appointed 
Grand -Almoner to His Most Christian Majesty. The 
world might groan in misery under the despotism 
of oppressors, men's lives and men's minds might be 
enslaved, crushed and blighted; the spirit of Christ- 
ianity would go forth and comfort them, but it would 
never occur to it to redress a single one of those wrongs. 
It has remained unconscious of them. To those wrongs, 
to men's right to be delivered from them, it was by 
nature completely blind. In respect to justice, to right 


and wrong, the spirit of Christianity is not so much 
immoral as amoral. The notion was as alien to it as 
was the notion of truth. Included in its code was, 
it might be controversially alleged, an old formula, ' the 
golden rule,' a commonplace of most literatures, which 
was popular in the East from China to Asia Minor; 
but that isolated precept was never interpreted in the 
sense of justice. It meant forgiveness, forbearing, kind- 
ness, but never mere justice, common equity; those 
virtues were far too unemotional in aspect to appeal to 
the religious enthusiast. The renunciation of life and 
all its ' vanities/ the casting overboard of all sordid 
cares for its maintenance, the suppression of desire, 
prodigal almsgiving, the consecration of a life the value 
of which had disappeared in his eyes to charity and 
love, non-resistance, passive obedience, the turning of 
the other cheek to an enemy, the whole riot of those 
hyperbolic ethical emotions could fire the Christian con- 
sciousness, while it remained utterly unmoved by every 
form of wrong, iniquity and injustice." 

To such intolerable and unbeseeming exaggerations 
does the fundamental: difference between all Stoical, 
ascetic, personal and individual misconceptions of moral 
ends, and the natural function' of morality in human 
development lend specious colour. 

In one of his most charming essays Matthew 
Arnold enlarges upon that favourite contrast between 
' paganism ' regarded as the religion of joy, and 
Christianity as the religion of sorrow. The point of 
his argument is that, since there is an enonnous amount 
of suffering in the world, since " for the mass of man- 
kind life is full of hardship," the religion of sorrow 
finds a much wider application than the religion of joy. 
But of that suffering, of that hardship with which the 
life of the mass of mankind is full, nine-tenths is the 
direct product of perpetrated injustice, of conduct which 
is wrong and immoral precisely because it produces that 
suffering and hardship. And morality, I repeat, is con- 
cerned first of all, if it has any meaning at all, with 
right and wrong. Comfort and consolation are admir- 
able and blessed things, though at may be questioned 


how far delusive comfort is ultimately beneficial or false 
consolation expedient but they are not morality. They 
are not morality especially while the question of right 
and wrong is entirely set aside and discarded. Comfort 
and consolation, forgiveness and loving-kindness, admir- 
able though they be, no more constitute morality than 
do the opiates and narcotics sometimes administered 
to the victims' of the Holy Office before they were 
stretched on the raclki or sent to the stake. By iall 
means let us have comfort and loving-kindness and 
mercy, but let us have justice first, let us have right. 

The failure so unfortunately charged against Christ- 
ianity to discriminate between established wrong and 
manifest right is not wholly unconnected with an 
incapacity it has sometimes shown of discerning between 
error and truth. Unconsciousness of right and wrong, 
of justice, of the elementary moral values, is the 
inevitable correlative of unconsciousness of intellectual 

The two things, intellectual honesty and justice, are 
in fact directly connected, two aspects of one and the 
same mental quality. The feeling for truth and the 
feeling for right, the judicial atthude towards human 
relations and the judicial attitude towards facts and 
intellectual relations, are but the same condition of the 
mind under slightly different aspects. It is impossible 
for the man who is destitute of the sense of intellectual 
honesty, who can palter with facts, circumvent his own 
reason, deliberately put out his mind's eye, blink at 
the data of truth, manufacture and manipulate evidence, 
for the self -deceiver,, for him who is insusceptible to 
the morality of truth and falsehood, to perceive aught 
of the distinction 1 between right and wrong, between 
justice and injustice. His judgment on the moral plane 
is inevitably the same as his judgment on the intellectual 
plane. Moral rectitude is incompatible with intellectual 

In the low state of moral development in which 
the notion of honesty of thought is unknown, honesty 


in the relations of man to man is also unper- 
ceivable; justice, the rudiments of morality are un- 
apprehensible. Honesty of thought, honesty of moral 
judgment the two issues, that which we call intellectual 
and that which we call moral, are inextricably united, 
are in reality inseparable. 



Lurking at the root of the misconception which 
entirely severs moral conduct from intellect and reason, 
is a psychological confusion of thought of wider import 
than even the present question, for it involves our whole 
estimate of the position and significance of rational 
thought. And it is the more pernicious because it 
contains a nucleus of truth. 

Strictly speaking all conduct, all action, arises out 
of desire, feeling, and their concomitant emotion 
Thought, whether rational or not, can of itself supply 
no motive of action, but only furnish the means of 
attaining an end which is given by extra-rational desire. / 
Whatever line of action be adopted, there is an ultimate--'' 
end assumed in it which lies outside the sphere of 
the intellect and of rational thought. If I take up my 
hat and umbrella, my act is rational because it is my 
wish to go out ; if I take a conveyance to the city, 
the fact that I have a business appointment to keep 
affords a rational justification of my behaviour. But if 
at last you ask me the reason why I should attend to 
business, I can only answer that I must live; and the 
strict logician is entitled to say, with a far better right 
than the finance-minister of the anecdote, " I fail to see 



where the necessity comes in." And no matter what 
course of action we investigate, we sooner or later come 
up against the blind wall of an ultimate motive which 
is extra-rational. 

The operation of rational thought is entirely confined 
to its informing function, the reaction of the organism 
to the environment thus perceived depends upon the 
emotional colouring, the desire, which the perception 
evokes. So that conduct can only be strictly described 
as rational or irrational in so far as it emjploys means 
appropriate or inappropriate to the attainment of an 
extra-rational object. Thus it is that the nature of 
conduct is quite correctly liable to be viewed as a matter 
of feeling, of appetite, of sentiment, and quite outside 
the sphere of rational processes 

But the contrast is in reality illusory. For the nature 
of motives, of desires, of sentiments, is wholly deter- 
mined by the range of the perceptions of the individual, 
of the impression, which he has of his relations to the 
environment. If I start at the sight of a lion, my 
actual motive is an extra-rational instinct of self- 
preservation; but in orden that it should operate I 
must first realize the nature of the danger. If what 
I took to be a lion is only a poodle, my absurd behaviour 
is not the result of perverted instinct, but of inaccurate 
perception. It is the nature of a man's impression 
of the world about him which determines the play of 
motive. A man's conduct depends upon extra-rational 
instinct, emotions, desires ; but these are themselves 
in turn determined by his view, his estimate of the 
world he lives in, by his beliefs, his opinions. 

And that impression, the range and complexion of 
his perception, is a matter of intellectual development, 
of knowledge. What the world is to him, what 
determines his appetites and desires is the product of 
his intellectual reach and outlook., 

The gigantic fallacy that pain and pleasure are the 
simple ultimate determinants of all conduct, that fallacy 
which has dominated both popular and philosophical 
theories, is the sheerest confusion of thought. That 
we endeavour to do what we like and avoid doing what 


we dislike is mere tautology. But conducts differ 
because likes and dislikes differ; the determinant of 
variety of conduct is not the common factor of likes 
and dislikes, but that which differentiates likes and dis- 
likes. The hog desires hog's wash; the thinker is 
ready to surrender all to the power of an idea. Both 
are governed by desire for ' pleasure/ only the 
* pleasure ' differs in each case. That of the hog 
would not be pleasure to Giordano Bruno, that of Bruno 
is incomprehensible to the unthinking philistine. The 
man who has felt what it is to live in the glow of a 
great and absorbing idea, to be worn in the service of 
it, to feel his being identified with the creative forces 
which shape the world, declares that that alone is life, 
that the happiness of it, even though it entail bitterness 
of struggle, of obloquy, and even death, is not to be 
exchanged for anything that life can offer. * Well 1 ' 
it may be asked, * is he really happier than the hog? ' 
The question is an absolutely idle and absurd one. 
There is no means or method of instituting a com- 
parison of the quantity of happiness obtained by the 
hog or the thinker. 

The interminable discussion on pleasure and pain, 
happiness and suffering as motives of action are futile 
reasonings in a circle. Pleasure and happiness are 
the aims of all conduct, but precisely because they are 
the common aims of all conduct they are entirely 
irrelevant in discriminating one course of conduct 
from another. The common factor may be altogether 
neglected without the result being thereby affected. It 
is the kind of happiness, or satisfaction, the nature of 
the thing desired which constitutes the differentiating 
issue between one type of conduct and another. And 
that difference depends upon the way in which the 
individual's relation to the outer world presents itself; 
it depends upon his perception, upon his conception, 
upon his thought, upon his knowledge. The degree of 
adaptation of the means of perceiving those relations 
does in fact determine the desires and motives which 
actuate him. So that rational thought, which owes 
its existence to that need, and whose function it is to 


carry to its most efficient degree that perception, does 
determine the individual's reaction, his conduct. The 
more perfect the perception, the truer the belief, the 
more perfect the desire, the more adapted the conduct. 
Conduct depends upon desire, feeling', emotion, but 
desire, feeling, emotion depend in turn upon the nature 
of the perception/ 

The old discredited notion of mediaeval Christ- 
ianity that the supremely important fact about a 
man was what he believed, that according as that 
belief, that creed, that opinion was true or false, he 
himself was to be counted good or bad, that his 
moral worth, his conduct were but the outward reflection 
of his intellectual attitude, that notion that has come 
to be branded as infamous and abhorrent was, as a 
matter of fact, strictly and incontroverdbly correct. 
Only the incongruity and inconsistency of the 
historical situation, which brought about the advo- 
cacy and special pleadings) of Locke, Bayle, Voltaire 
for the ' toleration ' of freedom, the * toleration ' of 
rationality of thought, and reduced the values and 
foundations of all opinions to the same level, abolishing 
all -distinctions of validity and invalidity, legitimacy or 
illegitimacy, right or wrong, thus giving rise to that 
outrageous and intolerable ^rnodern tolerance which 
regards every opinion as equally respectable, could divest 
intellectual belief of moral value and significance. 



There is a strange irony in the circumstance that 
those who most indignantly reject as a degradation of 


the moral ideal any dependence of morality on rational 
thought, are precisely those who complain that the foun- 
dations of morality are being sapped by rational criticism . 
What they mean when they say that the foundations of 
morality are sapped, is that the motive of reward, the 
motive of future life, is destroyed ; and that, consequently, 
morality can no longer be rationalized into a formula 
of self-interest, but is reduced to the emotional response 
of the human mind to the perception of facts as they 
are, to pure detached morality. To do that is to sap 
the foundations of morality, of morality which is not 
to be rationalized, but is a spiritual emotion. Self- 
contradictory inconsistency could hardly go further. 

And yet I would not be too hard on those inconsistent 
ones. There is a germ of truth in their contention. 
// we were positively certain that our transient being 
ends in complete annihilation, in every possible sense 
of the word ; if we were convinced that the whole 
human race itself, after its struggles, its evolution, would 
be some day as if it had never been, that our world 
would roll through space, a frozen morgue, carrying 
with it the final and net result of all that the life of 
the race has achieved and striven for, that 

the great globe itself, 
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve, 
And like this insubstantial pageant faded, 
Leave not a rack behind; 

such a certainty would make a difference. It would 
not make so great a difference as might at first be 
imagined, because the will of the race is too strong in 
us, because we are only to a certain extent individuals. 
It would not extinguish the aspirations and progress of 
the race any more than it would extinguish the repro- 
ductive impulse. Men would still, in spite of themselves, 
take a keen interest in humanity ; they would still be 
intent on sowing what they cannot hope to reap ; they 
would still yield to the attraction of the future, the pull 
of evolution ; they would still feel, quite justly, that 
to be dominated by that race spirit, to surrender one's 
individual ends to it. is the keenest form of life, the 


best life worth living ; they would still be ready to 
sacrifice themselves, to give their life for the intensi- 
fying quality which the race ideal alone can impart 
to it, for truth, for justice, as mothers are ready to 
give their life for their offspring. It has happened 
before, and would happen still. Men utterly disbe- 
lieving in any form of survival have walked firmly to 
the stake for truth's sake. And at the present day, 
in the transitional confusion of thought, there are many 
men who while holding the above view devote their 
lives enthusiastically to human progress, to the cause 
of disinterested truth. But still, I admit that the certainty 
of complete and universal annihilation would, in the 
absence of adequate organized training, act as a ipowerful 
motive on certain minds, that it would strongly confirm 
them in the temptation to cry " Apres moi le deluge" 
to scramble recklessly for power and material pleasure. 
But such a certainty would be quite irrational. It 
can never be a certainty, and we are very far from 
having any logical justification for entertaining it even 
as a probability. That our present mode of exist- 
ence, our individual consciousness, depends upon certain 
conbinations of forces, constituting our physiological 
organism, and that it must therefore come to an 
end when that combination is dissolved, does not 
admit of any practical doubt. But it does not 
follow that that mode of existence which we alone know, 
is the only form. The universe exists though it is not 
a physiological organism. What is the nature of its 
existence? One thing is absolutely clear ; the notion 
of ' matter/ such as it is currently conceived, such as 
it has necessarily always been conceived by uncritical 
man, as a ' dead ' thing, is as much a delusion and an 
absurdity as the grossest and most primitive mytho- 
logical fable. To say that there is a thing called 
* matter ' which exists independently of our feeling it, 
and that the nature of its existence when we do not 
feel it is to be extended, impenetrable, massive, etc., 
or, in other words, that what there is of it when we do 
not feel it, consists purely and essentially in ' feltness,' 
is to contradict oneself flatly in one and the same 


breath. A more flagrant and direct self-contradic- 
tion is not possible. We see, we feel the universe ; but 
to consider that we are describing the character of its 
existence when we say that it is seeable and feelable, 
that it is big, heavy, hard, is more absolutely non-sense 
than the most grotesque absurdity that can be imputed 
to any theology. Unfelt feltness is not a description 
of any possibility, any more than ' white blackness '. ; 
it is a thought -muddle of mutually cancelling predicates, 
j (lux of void sounds, not ideas, not even words. Of 
course we vividly conceive matter as feltness, as 
something extended, hard, visible : that is the only 
way in which we have ever known it, or can ever 
know it. But it needs but the most rudimentary alle- 
giance to the elementary principles of rationality, to 
recognize that either that something felt must have 
some mode of existence other than ' feltness/ or that 
when not felt it does not exist at all. 

We do know another form of existence, namely our 
own ; not ' dead ' existence, but living* existence, not 
feltness but feeling. Now there are about a dozen 
different and independent lines of argument and con- 
siderations which it would take too long to go into 
here by which it can be shown that the idea that 
there are two completely and essentially different forms 
of existence, is, to say the least, a highly improbable 
and unwarrantable hypothesis. It is, for one thing, 
entirely opposed to every scientific conception, among 
others to the conception of evolution. I am not quite 
sure whether we are entitled to say that it can be dis- 
proved an hypothesis like that could only be disproved 
by showing that it necessarily involves a clear self- 
contradiction but it is a gratuitous supposition, leading 
to fatal difficulties, and which carries the burden of 
proof. The hypothesis of special creation can in the 
same way not be * disproved,' but it is an overwhelm- 
ingly untenable, gratuitous hypothesis, which possesses 
no claim to consideration by the side of the theory of 

There is the highest degree of scientific probability 
for the simple supposition that what we perceive as 


tissue cells, nerve cells, brain cells (which latter do not 
differ in any essential respect either in character or 
function from any other amoeboid cells) and what on the 
other hand we know as feeling, as conscious existence, 
are not two things differing totally in their mode of 
existence, but the same thing of which we are made 
aware from two entirely different points of view, from 
the outside, as it were, and from the inside. 

We have then two conclusions, the one an absolute 
certainty, the other a highly probable scientific hypo- 
thesis, ( i ) that the notion of ' -matter ' as merely dead 
' feltness ' is an absurdity, absolutely inadmissible in 
rational thinking ; (2) that it is highly probable that 
the kind of existence which it has independently of our 
feeling is much more like our own feeling existence 
than like a ' dead ' unfeeling one. 

Now we should be careful not to take those two solid 
rational conclusions which would be recognized as uni- 
versally as the motion of the earth, were it not for 
the peculiar play of prejudices which dominates such 
questions for anything more than is really warranted 
by their rational basis. They have been so much abused 
that rationally minded people have got to distrust them. 
When nowadays a philosopher disproves the notion of 
' dead ' matter, he will in the majority of cases by 
and by 'prove' to you the Thirty -nine Articles. Or 
else people who would like to prove the Thirty -nine 
Articles hail him as a saviour and deliverer and thrust 
him triumphantly down the throat of the detestable 
materialists. Consequently many people prefer quite 
excusably under the circumstances to stick to 
' materialism ' pure and simple, and not to look too 
curiously into the metaphysics of the notion of matter, 
than to have anything! to do with such hocus-pocus. 

From the more than legitimate conclusion that the 
kind of thing of which the universe is really made is 
much more likely to be akin in nature to our own living 
mind than to any self-contradictory nonsense like 
' dead ' feltness, people at once jump to the notion of 
pantheism, to saying that the universe is a mind 
resembling our own. That supposition differs totally 


from the conclusion in question and is not at all warrant- 
able by it. All that we are entitled to say is that our 
mode of existence represents in a general way more 
truly what is meant by existence than any other concep- 
tion we can form, and that certainly * dead feltness ' 
is not a possible mode of existence. But the conception 
that the universe is like our own mind is not only 
unwarrantable, but untenable. Sensation, for instance, 
could mean nothing in the case of the universe, for 
the simple reason that there is nothing outside of it to 
feel. Thought, which is but elaborated sensation, and 
like it a means to an end, can likewise not be attributed 
to the universe. No definition by which our own 
form of mind is commonly characterized could apply to a 
universal mind. 

We are thus faced with two possible alternatives, 
( i ) either the universe (matter) is some lower, more rudi- 
mentary form of mind, or (2) it is a higher form of 
mind. So far as I can see we have no ground whatever 
to enable us to pronounce in favour of the probability 
of one hypothesis rather than the' other. 

I must point out one more consideration. We are 
in the habit of speaking of the uniformity of nature as 
* necessity.' That is quite incorrect.- The notion of 
necessity can properly only be applied to logical impli- 
cations, such as that a thing cannot at the same time be 
and not be, that two and two make four, which, in spite of 
what J. S. Mill says, would hold good in any universe. 
But there is no necessity whatever why a stone should 
fall to the ground. The fact that a given cause is 
always followed by a given effect and that the sequence 
holds good throughout all eternity does not make it 
one whit more * necessary.' For aught that we know 
uniform sequence might be a form of uniform volition. 

I have been obliged to slip into this metaphysical 
digression because it was necessary in order to show 
that the notion that the dissolution of our individuality, 
that is, the redistribution of the indestructible energy 
of which we are composed, necessarily means that we 
have no permanent stake in the universe, is not, and 
never can become a rational certainty. And therefore 


the progress and development of rational thought, the 
diffusion of its method, the confidence in its authority, 
can never make for nihilism ; and the outlook of nihilism 
can never be that of a humanity conscious of its 
allegiance to the sole valid foundations of its know- 
ledge and beliefs. 


To-day, with the Mene Tekel Upharsin of coming 
change blazing upon every wall, as of old in just such 
a groaning, labouring world, the old remedies are pressed 
upon us the cultivation of personal virtues, self- 
renouncement, ' Reform yourselves and the world will be 

It is precisely to such remedies, to the diverting of 
attention from the essential conditions and requirements 
of the human social organism, to intellectually easier 
and more slothful moral palliatives, to personal virtues 
protectively cultivated and emphasized to the neglect 
and exclusion of rational effort and will to justice, that 
those very failures are due which now so sternly call us 
to account. It is not by any complacent individualistic 
self-cultivation, it is not by abnegations and renounce- 
ments, and ascetic ecstasies, that whatsoever progress 
has been effected in our social order was brought about, 
but by hard thinking and devising, by fearless facing 
the foundations of wrong, and by resisting it. It is not 
by the reformation of the individual, but by the refor- 
mation of the world's thought, of the medium', mental 
and material in which man develops, of the conditions 
of his life and the quality of his thought, that the 


iniquity which filled the world of our forefathers, the 
flagitious perversity of their current moral judgments 
have grown inconceivably fabulous. 'Reform your- 
selves '? ; it would be considerably truer to say 
' Reform the world and your own reform will take care 
of itself.' Men are the product of the kind of world 
they live in, of the kind of world which it in fact is, 
of the relations which actually obtain in it between 
man and man, and of the ideas and values which 
correspond to that actual world. It is public and un- 
acknowledged immorality, not private morality which 
is important. And moral progress does not consist 
in conformity with the ethical ideals of the age, but in 
the detection of the immorality of those ideals . Personal 
virtue is the most admirable thing in the world ; but 
the morality of the world has nevertheless not been 
advanced by personal virtue, but by changed conditions 
brought about by the force of rational criticism enlisted 
in the conflicts of human interests. 

And our age which is witnessing the dissolution of 
all the traditional sanctions of ethics, which tears without 
awe or scruple the veil from every sentiment and con- 
vention, which questions with unprecedented temerity 
the very principle of good and evil, this sceptical, 
iconoclastic age, has not only given more practical effect, 
more current realization to those ideals of temperance 
and compassion which previous ages dreamed of and 
preached ; this emancipated, sacrilegious age is doing 
more, it is carrying those ideals higher, it is creating 
new ones, it is witnessing the development of a larger 
and truer conception of ethics, evolving a loftier 
morality. And it is doing so in no formal, speculative 
manner, not by way of theoretical construction of new 
codes, but as the living reflection in its feeling and 
sentiment of the ideas which feed and fill its mental 

The foremost factor in that development is precisely 
the perception of that human evolution which we have 
been considering. As we have noted, that perception 
of the life of the human race as a ceaseless growth rising 


from animality and savagery to our present state, im- 
pelled onward by an irresistible natural power, ruled 
by definite and indeflectible laws which nothing can 
evade and which can be relied upon to operate in the 
future as in the past as inevitably as the law which 
governs the course of the planets, is a new conception. 
There has been nothing like it, as a generally diffused 
belief, in the world before. There have been Utopias ; 
but a Utopia is but a wistful dream of stagnant per- 
fection. There 'have 'been conceptions of national 
millenniums associated with the Messianic ideas of 
the Jews, or with the Roman Empire in the Augustan 
age ; but all such ideas differ totally from that of 
progress regarded and recognized as a natural law. 
The process of inevitable growth which constitutes the 
life of the human race, which has created it, fashioned 
it, raised it to its present powers, overcome seemingly 
insuperable obstacles, turned them to its own advantage, 
which daily leaves the past behind, and throws open new 
futures, which can only cease with the extinction of 
the human spirit, that conception is a revelation of 

And as that revelation becomes clearer, fuller and 

more familiar to our thoughts, the fact is ever more 

clearly impressed upon us, individuals, that we are 

particles of that great stream 1 , moments in that great 

/process. Our thoughts, our feelings, our desires, our 

/ joys and sorrows, our interests, our aims, our entire 

being is the slowly accumulated product of all the 

generations of the past, our life is the fruit of millions 

of lives, of countless efforts, aspirations and struggles. 

We are not isolated entities, but a parcel of human 

existence ; our ' self ' is the resultant of all the past. 

Our individuality is an illusion. It is but a resultant 

and component of the larger life of the race, which 

\ moves onward impelled by the same spirit, the same 

\ desires which move us. Our thoughts are not our 

\ thoughts, the remotest past has gone to the building 

\ of them. The length of our individual tether, our 

capacity for going maybe a little beyond the expressed 

thought of the age, is itself determined by the stage 


of evolution which we happen to have reached. Our 
very pleasures, even what we call our egoistic feelings 
and tastes, are the expression of the life of the race. 
The individual cannot present a single feature which 
is not the direct outcome of the social organism in which 
he and his ancestors have lived. We are nothing apart 
from humanity. 

In attacks of world -weariness it is common for 
passionate and sensitive natures to be filled with a 
feeling of boundless disgust for the human world about 
them, its ugliness, its vulgarity, its shams, its falsehoods, 
its ignorance, its injustice, its brutality ; their souls 
are racked by the seeming hopelessness of its prejudices 
and coarse instincts ; they shrink from the besmirching 
contact of the " barbarians, philistines, populace " with 
which it is peopled ; they are sickened by the exultant 
triumph of crass ignorance, imposture, and respectable 
infamy. They long to fly from that ugly human world, 
to seek refuge in solitude, in the midst of nature, on the 
majestic heights of the uncontaminated mountains, there 
to fill themselves with the vitalizing and sublime influ- 
ences of natural beauty, to possess their thought -wo rid 
in freedom, unsullied and untroubled by the meanness 
and degradation of the world of man. But they do not 
know, or do not reflect that those very aspirations, 
those soaring ideals, those high sentiments, those im- 
pulses and delights of the mind, that very sensitiveness 
to the faults about them and to the exalted* impressions 
of nature, that world of thought and ideals in which 
they long to dwell alone, are the child and product of 
that same human world from which they recoil in horror 
and contempt as from a thing unclean. It is in such 
a world that the substance of their souls was conceived 
and born, there that it was created ; it is that humanity 
with all its faults and passions which has through its 
daily life of strifes and wrestlings brought to being, 
that spirit which lifts them upwards, it is that humanity 
which has endowed them with the sublime seeing and 
conquering mind ; and the common life of humanity 
through millions of years immeasurably darker, more 
horrible and more ugly than the world which surrounds 


them, has fashioned every one of those thoughts and 
feelings in which they would proudly withdraw them- 
selves . 

And as we are but the resultant of all past generations, 
so too are we the makers of the future evolution of 
the race ; as the function of the past was to make us 
what we are, so the future is dependent upon our being 
and doing. 

/ The great riddle of existence, the great objective 
/ universe which encompasses us, its nature and meaning, 
will probably remain for ever unknown to us. But we 
1 are beginning to perceive that that impossible know- 
ledge is not so essential as we had been wont to believe. 
Of one thing we may be perfectly certain : if we knew 
the word of the enigma, we could not know more 
certainly than we do now that our part in the great 
cosmos is wholly contained within the life and destiny 
of our race. We can be no less certain now, than we 
should be if the last veil of the mystery were torn, 
open, that our task, our function, our 'duty is with the 
human race, that we are not concerned with altering 
the courses of the stars or kindling the brooding fires 
of the nebula, but with building the human world, with 
making it better, greater, with fulfilling the law of 
untiring effort and ceaseless improvement which governs 
the entire process of tnat racial life, of which ours is 
a part and parcel. 

How far and in what sense our being is transient 
or permanent, how much is momentary, how much im- 
perishable in the combination of universal and inde- 
structible forces which we call our 'self/ does not 
fundamentally affect the issue. The thing that flows 
through us, the thing we are, has its source in the 
untold receding ages, and will flow on. We are it, it 
is us. Whether or not the exact mode of our 'indi- 
viduality's ' relation to that unbroken stream' is such 
as would satisfy our wishes, could we apprehend it, the 
fact remains that we cannot wish, think, act outside the 
current of that stream of which we are a portion. If 
we have any interest, if we have any aspiration, if we 
have any permanent stake in the universe, they are 


bound up with the aspirations, the growth, the destinies 
of our race. 

If that be so, then the ideal of altruism which has 
hitherto been assumed to be the obvious ne plus ultra 
of morality is but a partial and incomplete one. Our 
relation to the life of the race is not confined, as 
that ideal supposes, to the present generation, to those 
of our fellow-beings with whom we are brought into 
actual contact, but extends to generations yet unborn, 
to the entire future of humanity, is above all and 
essentially related to the future. Our relation to our 
contemporaries constitutes only a small portion of our 
ethical relation ; our contribution to the destiny which 
the race is fulfilling, our part in the great process 
which it is accomplishing implies a far larger altruism. 
The law by which that great natural process is actually 
governed only takes account of the existing generation 
as a stepping-stone to future evolution ; that evolution 
is the all -important object to which all others are sub- 
ordinate, the present is of no significance except as the 
seed, the determinant of what is to come ; the present 
is constantly being sacrificed to the future, each succes- 
sive moment is subservient to the process of which it 
is but a transient phase. 

That is the standard of valuation actually current in 
the natural law which in fact governs the process of 
human destiny. If the conscious principles of human 
action and the standards by which we estimate it are 
to be founded in the 'reality of actual facts, if they are 
to be something more than an artificial and arbitrary 
convention, if they are to be in harmony with the laws 
which, irrespectively of our opinions and predilections, 
govern the course of human affairs, if the principles 
and standards are not to be in direct and futile opposi- 
tion to them, it is in terms of those laws that all our 
ethical judgments and estimates must be formulated. 
Good and evil, right and wrong, must be measured, 
and understood with reference to the laws from which 
the notions actually derive their ultimate significance. 
The natural process which governs the course of human 
life stamps human acts and achievements with certain 


definite values ; they are real, natural values, all others 
are artificial and arbitrary, whether we like it or not. 
In the natural scale that action is good which contributes 
to the process of human development, that act is evil 
which tends to impede, retard, oppose that process ; 
that individual life is well deserving which is in the 
direct line of that evolution, that is futile which lies 
outside the course of its advance, that is condemned 
which endeavours to oppose the current. That is the 
natural, the absolute and actual standard of moral 
values. Nature does not value the most saintly and 
charitable life which brings no contribution to human 
growth as much as a single act which permanently 
promotes the evolution of the race. In the book of 
Nature's recording angel more is set down to the credit 
of Gutenberg and of Rousseau than to St. Francis of 
Assisi. The only measure of worth of which Nature 
takes any account by perpetuating it is- the contribu- 
tion offered towards the building up of a higher 
humanity . 

As the true relation of human individuality becomes 
apprehended, as we come to realize the nature of the 
great process that made us, of which our life is a 
product and a parcel, that process of humanity -making, 
the most wonderful and sublime within our ken, it is 
hard to escape the wish that our life shall be indeed a 
particle of that great stream, not merely as a passive 
product, but in howsoever infinitesimal a degree as an 
active factor also, animated by the same impulse which 
made us what we are and which will bring forth new 
humanities. We cannot but feel a sense of obligation 
to contribute something towards that growth of which 
our being is the fruit, we cannot but be at one with 
the exsurgent spirit which leads the destinies of the 
race. A new ethical sense, the true and natural ethical 
spirit whose vaguely conscious operation has created 
mankind, is inevitably developing. To be with the forces 
of human growth, to be truly a living part, and not a 
mere dead excretion, of the creative impulse of the 
race, that is the obligation which, if we have indeed 
apprehended our real relation, is inevitably laid upon us. 




BY that detached, inexperienced judge, an extra-terrestrial 
observer of this world, who saw to what prodigious 
ascension that attuning virtue of thought to universal 
actions had lifted the sons of earth, it would be supposed 
as a thing of course that its talisman, the Palladium 
of such proud power, would in the sentiment of the human 
race be hedged with something of idolatrous veneration ^ 
pride of intellect would seem at the least pardonable ; 
rational thought, its authority, transgressed against though 
it might be by human infirmity, would, he could not but 
assume, be, in theory at least, reverently deferred to 
and held inviolable. iWhat a contrast the actual attitude 
of mankind presents ! It is the paradox of human thought 
that man has ever looked askance upon that very power 
by virtue of which he has wrought his portents, to which 
he owes all. The sentiment with which he has commonly 
regarded it has been, not one of reverence and pride, 
but, on the contrary, of deep distrust, of disparagement, 
of positive antagonism, nay, of fierce open hostility. 
Throughout the course of his career, rising to unimagined 
heights by means of it, he has never ceased to brand 
its name, to revile it and scorn it, to belittle it, to point 
to it in scorn as to a treacherous enemy, a thing unclean, 
to oppose it, and use his utmost endeavour to stifle its 
voice. At this late hour to represent it, as has here 
been done, as the supreme organ of his life and growth, 
is not a simple truistic statement, but one to be advanced 
with apologetic delicacy. To express contempt for 
rationality of thought is, on the other hand, the unfailing- 
cue to popular applause. 

Not popular clamour only or the voice of laHaboth 
denounces reason as ' pride? of intellect,' and pleads 



for the expediency, the utility, the beauty of lies, but 
laborious philosophers addicted to its subtlest exercise 
vie in impeaching and discrediting reason, in showing by 
the production of cogent reasons that it is unreasonable 
to be reasonable, in performing the Miinchausen-like 
feat of lifting themselves out of the bed of their dogmatic 
slumbers by their own hair, of discrediting rational 
thought by means of rational criticism ; and in delighting 
us with the discovery that no truth has ever been dis- 
covered, but merely made and manufiactured ; Columbus 
having thus manufactured America, and Le Verrier 
created the planet Uranus. 

From the philosophers' caves to the market-place the 
echoes of learned misology are propagated in joyful re- 
percussion. And every occasion and pretext is eagerly 
embraced to set some other source of judgment and 
guidance, and conduct, less exacting, more pliable to 
our wishes, and invested with the glamour of mystery and 
inintelligibility, in the place of the power wkich made 
man and by which he rules. Intuition, inspiration, in- 
stinct, divination, subliminal consciousness, illative sense, 
direct knowledge, pragmatism, under countless and various 
names and descriptions, with the solemnity, of the dog- 
matist, and with the flippancy of the wit, with the 
assertiveness of ignorance, and with academic apparatus, 
in the most opposite ways, and in the name of the most 
conflicting opinions, as inquisitor or as scientist, as tyrant 
or as revolutionary, man has pursued his quest for sub- 
stitutes for rational thought. Most pathetic sight of all, 
the very soldiers who are fighting the War of Libera- 
tion of Humanity, combating unreason and injustice, 
are at one with the obscurantist in giving expression to 
their disdain for * mere rationality,' ' logic grinding," 
4 intellectualism,' * the fetish of consistency.' 

Reason, it has been preposterously demonstrated, is 
4 fallible.' That, of course, is not so. Reason is not 
fallible, reason is infallible. There is no instance of 
the failure of rational thought. There is a rueful record 
of the disastrous failures, wreck, ruin incomputable, 
desolation, agony, and misery due to irrational thoughts, 
to substitutes for reason. The chief task of rational 


thought has been to rescue man front the overwhelming 
disasters brought about by those substitutes. 

The extravagant spectacle of his incongruous attitude 
of persistent suicide as if a race of Aristophanic birds 
should inveigh against the power of flight, or a 
society of electrical engineers devote their evenings 
to expressing their scorn of the notorious uselessness 
of electricity becomes less paradoxical when we reflect 
that irrational thought is the necessary) expression of all 
established order which depends for its continuance on 
the prevention of fatal change, evolution, progress. So 
that rational thought is the eternal enemy, and as such! 
must, according to all rules of was, be discredited, 
vilified, and contemned. 

The irrational power-thought with' which every issue 
is fenced about against reason, is not, as we are led to 
suppose, an infirmity of prejudice with which * human 
nature ' is inevitably afflicted ^ it is the natural means of 
defence of all the powers interested un clinging for their 
existence to established conceptions^ amid the perpetual 
menace of the forces which are destructive of lies. It is 
an artifact. And there is in the nature of things no 
ground whatever why it should not be eliminated from 
the world. People are not born with' prejudices, they 
are taught them. And the artificial deformation of men's 
minds is no more* necessary and unavoidable than is 
that of Chinese ladies' feet. There is nothing more 
visionary in the conception of a world without prejudice 
than in that of a world without typhoid or small -pox. 
It is conceivable that a stop might be put to the teaching 
of prejudice. 

Power-thought is an inevitable disease of power, and 
power in some form, power of guidance, leadership, talent 
is necessary, desirable, precious, indispensable. Yes, but 
that beneficent power is not the sort of power that either 
naturally feeds or thrives on pudding. Natural inequality, 
aristocracies of talent, of wisdom, of true insight, let 
us by all means pray for ; let us have leaders. But to 
offer high wages for leadership is precisely the way nat 
to get it. Given decent fullness of life to all, it is- your 
true leader that can best dispense with high wages. The 


true difficulty and problem of differentiation of function 
in the human world, is not so much to allot leadership 
as to allot the dirty work. Under rational conditions 
of equal opportunities, your leader will soon appear when 
you cease advertising for him, connecting his function by 
an obsessing atavism with the image of a Persian satrap. 
To preserve human beings from becoming brutes when put 
to the dirty work of the world, that is the greater 
difficulty. To them the high wages. Power dissociated 
from pudding will no longer necessarily breed pestilence 
and infection. 

A process out of which the cure of power-thought may 
conceivably evolve, should not be overlooked. Power- 
thought has, of course, under pressure and compulsion 
become liberalized ; it has of necessity had to undergo 
transformation at the point of the bayonets of rational 
thought. It is less homicidal than it once was. The reac- 
tionary of to-day, with the views and conduct he is com- 
pelled to adopt, or to pretend to adopt, would a hundred 
years ago have been hanged and quartered as a raving 
revolutionary. The animal instincts of self-preservation 
are full of craft, produce protective colorations and 
mimicries. Reaction speaks in the name of liberal 
ideas, of freedom, of progress . Our Tories are the loudest 
advocates of * reform,' our obscurantists of * education/ 
of * enlightenment.' More, the self -protective instinct 
has learned by experience ; it has learned better than to 
wait stupidly to have reform thrust upon it by revolt. 
It has learned to meet it half-way when inevitable, to 
forestall it, to turn reformer and avoid the worst. Alii 
that is but self-protective mimicry and is taken for what 
it is worth. But, all the same, it comes to this, that the 
sight of power-interest is compelled to take a longer 
view, its sight is lengthening. Suppose a further lengthen- 
ing ; may not truth, may not justice loom at last into 
view as its own ultimate interest? May laldaboth not 
make the discovery that his power-thought, for all its 
cunning, animal, self-preservative instinct, has not only, 
desolated and ruined humanity, but likewise himself! 



SUCH as it stands to-day reared by his mind's powers, 
the World of Man is at once the most venerable and' 
wondrous fact in the universe and a thing to make angels 
weep, a glory and an abomination, an inspiration and a 
stumbling-block, a thing sacred and vile, sublime and 
grotesque, a fit object of worship and of contempt, of 
pride and of shame, of hope and of despair. According 
as we view it with an eye upon the portent of its growth 
out of crudest origins, or in the light of the 
knowledge and ideals that are in us of what it should, 
could, and ought to be; \Ve have cause to be filled with 
a religious reverence or with a sense of cynical disgust. 
That optimism and that pessimism' colour all our outlooks 
and estimates. 

There is abundant justification for the darkest picture. 
The powers of evil against which mankind has struggled 
from earliest times, transformed, docked and diminished 
though they be, still loom defiant, battling fiercely and 
astutely. They oppose justice, oppose freedom, oppose 
reason, oppose truth. As of old they colour and distort 
the mental world in the sense of their ends and interests. 
Though a thousand abuses have been swept away, the 
world swarms with abuses, gross, glaring, patent, and 
convicted. Despite all the glories of human progress 
anachronisms and archaisms, superstitions in the strict 
etymological sense of the word dating from every age 
of savagery and barbarism, violently incongruous with the 
knowledge and judgment of modern man, pageant 
arrogantly up and down the earth. 

The principle of economic heredity dooms the bulk of 
the race to congenital material and mental degradation. 


The principle of the Power-State, possessing immoral 
interests and standing outside ethical laws, the shibboleths 
of nationality, and military power, have materialized in 
their logical issue, and convulsed the world in a maelstrom 
of ruin dwarfing the records of its bloodstained annals. 
Sexual life is perverted and tortured by notions and 
institutions founded upon the primitive chattel estimate 
of woman. Man's intellectual life is chaos. Moloch, 
as of old, calls for the little ones to: come unta 
it, claims and exercises the right of mental infanti- 
cide. Every organized and recognized channel of 
ideas, press, school, public utterance and opinion, 
is deliberately fed with falsehood. The entire de- 
velopment of the human mind during its long and 
glorious progress is sedulously put aside, concealed, sup- 
pressed, garrotted, and silenced ; so that in an age when, 
as never yet, man is in possession of the means and data 
of far-reaching rational thinking, when, as never before, he 
is in a position to know, to think, {to judge, it is virtually 
impossible for a man to know, think, or judge save by 
subreptitious personal effort, in opposition and defiance 
of all established and approved formulas of thought. 
In its racial, economic, familial, moral, religious, in- 
tellectual organization, the entire fabric of existing civili- 
zation presents a consistent structure of blunder, of 
folly, of ignorance, of falsehood, and of iniquity. 

The war, with all its monstrous manifestations, which 
fills our consciousness to-day with distracted bewilder- 
ment, is not an accidental cataclysm, a fortuitous phe- 
nomenon. All the criminal absurdities, all the hypocrisies, 
and blasphemies, and falsehoods, all the callousness, all 
the vertiginous waste and demented destruction of human- 
life, power, wealth, all the bedlam insanity of it all, 
existed, every one of them, in our pre-war European 
civilization. The war wasi but the visible avatar, the 
materialized out-throw of the multitudinous abominations 
amid which we lived. It has but torn the mask. 

Yet while we contemplate with unflinching eye that 
mountain-mass of evil and falsehood, our faith in humanity; 


and in its destinies, if we have clearly apprehended the 
course of past development and the forces by which it 
has been brought ab'out, will stand unshaken. Such as 
it is, this sore-smitten world does yet surpass every pre- 
ceding phase in the upward struggle of the race. Every 
one of those abuses, every aspect of that folly, of that 
iniquity, of that ignorance under the weight of which 
our present world appears to be irredeemably floundering, 
represents but the whittled remnant of the incubus which 
has formerly weighed upon its growth. Gross and in- 
tolerable, hardy and defiant as every avatar of the powers 
of darkness appears to-day, it is but the shadow: of a 
tyranny once immeasurably greater. It puts a strain on 
our imagination, we complain, to conceive a world purged 
from those secular evils ; but it is in reality even more 
difficult to form a duly vivid conception of the conditions, 
material and mental, of those phases which our world has 
outgrown. And, on the other hand, all evil is to-day, 
as never before, sharply accentuated by our clearer 
insight into its absurdity, its iniquity, its obsolescence, 
its wanton needlessness. The time is no more when 
anachronisms could pass unnoticed as on a Shakespearean 
or an Addisonian stage.- Out-of-date stupidity and ini- 
quity stand out more clearly visible because our conscious- 
ness of what is wise and right is infinitely more lucid. 
Never was the contrast between our knowledge, our 
conscience, and existent fact so strident ; never before 
has there been so clashing an antithesis between man's 
thought and that upon which rests the orders of his 

And it is precisely that contrast which is the surest 
token of the future. The world of man is built out of 
his mind, is the materialized expression thereof ; it is by 
his thought that it has grown into what it is, it is his 
thought that has gradually, cast out evil. The realization 
of man's rational conclusion, of what he perceives to be 
true, of what he perceives to be right, of what he perceives 
to be just, is as inevitable as the process of the stars. 
The greater the antithesis between man's world and his 
spirit, the greater the assurance of the future. 
* The war, we were told, threatened the existence and 


future of our civilization. But in reality what lies in 
mortal jeopardy is not civilization, but war. .War and 
all the unmasked forces which have made the war possible, 
of which the war was the visible embodiment and logical 
result. In the midst of it the world has never been more 
eirenic, been more clearly in ^ight of the passing away of 
all war barbarisms. And \vhat is true of that representa- 
tive anachronism is equally true of all others. The powers 
of darkness and reaction loom most dangerous the nearer 
the term of their downward course ; when existence is 
imperilled all finer modesties and abstentions are dis- 
pensed with, purposes are laid bare and existence is 
defended with tenfold defiance. But inconsistency and 
incompatibility with the present is but accentuated by all 
apparent triumphs, and humanity is brought nearer to 
deliverance . 

However impredicable and uncertain the immediate 
issues, the ultimate issues are certain and inevitable. 
Delays, adjournments, the victory of reaction, the triumph 
of folly, the insolence of privilege, the arrogance of 
confuted lies, ruin, cataclysms, are immaterial in the 
general course of the natural process. They are but 
transient accidents, and we know that the evolutionary 
forces turn accidents and obstacles to profit and account. 
Destruction involves what is doomed, frees what is death- 
less. Such has been the invariable result of all the 
disasters which have seemed to jeopardize the evolution of 

In the light of a clear apprehension of past develop- 
ment, all current scepticisms and cynicisms (become negli- 
gible. The idiotic cry of 'Utopia' is but foolish 
gibbering. To any one who has at all adequately realized 
the significance of the past evolution of mankind, all 
our halting millennial dreams are by comparison puny and 
impotent ; the retrospective vision of accomplished fact 
is the most fantastic of all Utopias. Compared to it 
the tasks which our limited vision can see lying ahead 
of us are singularly simple. . ' 



HUMAN evolution is probably as yet in a comparatively 
early stage. There is no ground for supposing that it will 
not attain to phases surpassing the present one as signally 
as that surpasses even the dimmest human beginnings. 
There is no reason why the standard of development 
of human faculties and qualities attained by a few 
individuals whom we call great, should not become the 
average of the race. That is the ordinary course of 
evolution ; the individual exception becomes the type 
of the race. 

Properly speaking, specific human evolution can 
scarcely be said to have yet begun. The stages through 
which mankind has passed and those which appear im- 
mediately about to follow, are preparatory in character. 
For all the growth of humanity has so far been engaged 
rather with developing the means of its evolution than 
with using and applying them . The goals which humanity 
at present envisages are not so much ideals of ripe per- 
fectionwhich does not exist in any evolutionary process 
as a condition of suitable equipment for its free develop- 
ment. The use of the means at the disposal of mankind 
for the control of the conditions of life is not as yet 
systematized and organized, hardly are those means 
recognized, hardly at all distinctly apprehended. 

The operation of progressive forces has been, speaking 
in mechanical parlance, inefficient in the extreme. The 
wastage is colossal. Only an infinitesimal fraction of 
human power has been applied to the task of develop- 
ment ; the course of the evolutionary process has been 
choked by self-created obstacles, and by far the larger 
proportion of the progressive effort has been spent in 
overcoming them. The abolition of each obsolete sur- 



vival means not only an obstacle removed, but the setting 
free of all the force which had been engaged in struggling 
against it. Huge sources of power await liberation, in- 
calculable stores of energy lie as yet untapped. 

But if all the results of human evolution have hitherto- 
been achieved by means that are only a fraction of those 
in the power of humanity, which are but in part realized 
and purposively applied, there is one aspect of that evolu- 
tion which human effort has as yet done virtually nothing 
at all to assist and control. And that aspect constitutes 
half the evolutionary, process, namely, the transmission 
of its results from one generation to another. 

When progress, reform, reconstruction, are discussed,, 
the scepticism of the more moderate setters-forth of world 
wisdom usually finds expression in some such comments 
as the following : 

' Those consummations which we all devoutly wish, 
the casting off anachronism, absurdities gross and 
palpable, would be a simple enough matter 1 , would indeed, 
come about automatically, were everybody well, like 
you and me, were the majority of human beings amenable 
to reason, pervious to the obvious, if they were at all 
capable of the simplest thinking, if they cared at all 
for any of those things. Clearly there would be no folly if 
there were no fools. But, my dear sir, cast your eyes 
wherever you please upon the actual crowd of men and 
women, consider for a moment the concrete individual 
human beings which make up that aggregate in which 
you would see the agent of intelligent endeavour,, which 
you etherealize into the germ of an exalted humanity. 
That humanity; is the greengrocer round the corner,, 
the haberdasher, the thief, the beadle, that jockey trainer, 
that lean clerk, that adipose government official wiping 
the sweat of his pomposity from his brow, that country 
gentleman with arterio -sclerosis, sodden with squire - 
archical tradition, those youths whose one dread 
in the world is the risk of being' bored \>y } their 
own company, whose minds revolve in the orbit 
of the music-hall, the restaurant, " rugger " and 
" socker," the ossified Eton-Oxford brain, the sordid 
dinginess of those suburbans careworn with the 


pettiest individual problems, the tragic mankind of our 
heartrending comic artists, the Phil-May, the George 
Belcher people, and all the unspeakable dumb, submerged 
multitude of animality. That is your humanity 1 Glance 
at the bookstalls, at their literature, their press ; consider 
the food of their dim mentality. \Vhat thoughts are 
theirs? ftVhat rational impulse towards even the most 
trivial platitude of progress can you look to issue thence? 
What force, save the habitual clap- trap that is appro- 
priately employed, is capable of moving that mass of 
hopeless inertia? 

' I will go further. Your " progress " is, whatever 
you may say, in a great measure illusory. Apart from its 
material aspects it has only effected any essential change, 
any real evolution in an infinitesimalfy small percentage of 
the race. That wider vision, those expanded horizons, that 
clearer consciousness and conscience, are the heirloom 
of but a small fraction of the human race, even though it 
be larger than in past ages, even though, it no longer con- 
stitutes an esoteric class. Though the whofe community 
unconsciously benefits by the conquests of justice and of 
thought just as it does by the development of material 
power, still the vast mass of mankind remains to-day, 
under the external appearance of transforming civilization, 
at heart much what they have been in the rudest ages, 
barbarians, as unthinking, as nescient, as mentally help- 
less, a prey to similar superstitions and formulas, blindly 
governed by the same unmodified passions, with minds 
and hearts and lives revolving in the same cramped sphere 
as the savage and the barbarian, and liable to break 
out at any time through all their veneers into primitive 
savagery and barbarism.' 

Ruefully must that justification of the * veneer * view 
of civilization be admitted, fttye live in a certain phase of 
human evolution termed * twentieth-century ' which stands 
for a certain achieved growth of the human mind, its 
powers, its experience and attitude. But the vast majority 
do not belong to that phase at all. In the population, 
high and low, of the present day every phase of human 
evolution is represented, from the Stone Age onward. The 
actual men we see about us are not twentieth-century 


men at all, but Mousterians, men of the fifteenth century; 
with Master of Arts degrees, Norman chieftains, Tudor- 
men, Victorians. They, travel in railways, fly in planes, 
use telephones, do not settle their family, disputes with 
stone hatchets, do not eat with their fingers ; but all 
that is but * veneer.' Essentially, in all that really 
counts as marking their place on the genealogical tree 
of human evolution, in their mind, in their ideas, they, 
appertain not to this, but to some remote and primitive 
period. Civilization is, so far as they are concerned, 
but a material setting, of no more significance than the 
cut of their clothes. 

But what does that fact actually signify and amount 
to? To this : that the results, the products of human 
evolution since palaeolithic, Tudor, Victorian days have 
not been transmitted to them ; have not been transmitted 
by the only agency that can perform that function, by 
the human environment, human organization. That 
function has been performed partially, and imperfectly, or 
not at all. The Carrier of Evolution upon which they; 
are wholly dependent for their human heredity has trans- 
mitted to them railways and policemen, but the actual 
essentials of the accomplished evolution it has entirely 
failed to transmit. It is no incurable * human nature * 
that is at fault, no irredeemable stupidity or folly, but 
the mechanism of human evolution. It is not their proto- 
plasm or their blood that is to blame if they are troglodytes 
or barbarians ; they cannot be anything else but for the 
handing down by human organization of the growth of 
humanity since troglodytism and barbarism. Human 
purpose has, as a matter of fact, never yet so much as 
bethought itself of exercising any control over that 
function ; no steps have been taken by the human race 
to transmit it3 evolution . Mankind has never deliberately 
organized its reproductive mechanism. 

We have, it is* true, something spoken of, and! con- 
siderably spoken of, as * education.' But it is scarcely- 
possible to contemplate it seriously as a rational 
endeavour to discharge the above-named function. So- 
grossly ludicrous, so fantastically archaic is it, that one 
can hardly employ the same term to designate it and 


an attempt to organize the transmission of human evolu- 
tionary products. There is scarcely anything! in common 
between that which 1 at the present day goes by the 
name of education, and the actual conquests and achieve- 
ments of the human mind. It seems, on the contrary, to 
be the deliberate aim of our pedagogy to wipe out, to 
conceal, bury, and render inaccessible; all that the human 
mind has acquired of power and knowledge since the 
fourteenth century, and, to secure its victims against 
any, danger of acquiring it. Amid all surviving ana- 
chronisms it would be difficult to point to one which 
has remained so completely primitive and rudimentary 
as our so-called education, or to a subject concerning" 
which even our more advanced conceptions and ideals 
have so generally failed to rise above the level of 
our rudimentary practice. 

,What is termed! education is founded upon the 
patriarchal notion of the sacred right of the father 
to do as he pleases with the mind of the child who is 
heir to his property. As the father in reality has neither 
the knowledge, nor the means or the power to train 
the child's mind, any more than he has any right to 
control the evolution of the race, the child is sent to 
school. The school is more or less expensive according 
to the means, ambition or vanity of the parent. All 
our schools are derived by very direct and undisturbed 
filiation from the monastery schools established in the 
darkest ages of Europe for the manufacture of priests. 
They teach the same subjects, by the same methods, as 
were taught in the quadrivium in vogue when the human 
mind reached its lowest level of degradation ; to those 
are added the subjects predilected by the humanists of 
the so-called Renaissance who gave a baleful twist to 
the development of modern Europe. 

Of those subjects the most important are Latin, the 
language of the Roman Church, and Greek, that of the 
Renaissance humanists; thus the youth of the twentieth 
century is said to be provided with the key wherewith 
* to unlock the wisdom of the ancients.' The teaching is 
conducted by priests, or under the supervision of priests. 
Subjects, methods, and teachers are the same as in the 


fifteenth century and by no means up to trie level of 
even the best fifteenth -century mentality. Fifteenth- 
century knowledge is not the means to twentieth -century 

As to the education supplied to the ' lower classes/ 
>vhile by the omission of some of the traditions of the 
church schools it is more real and healthier in tone, 
so far as it goes, than that of the expensive schools, it 
is so rudimentary as scarcely to amount to more than 
mere literacy, providing the pupil with sufficient letters 
to read shilling shockers (instead of six-shilling ones, 
like his more fortunate brother brought up on Vergil 
and Xenophon), and sufficient figuring to shop or cheat. 

,The transmission of the products of mankind's mental 
evolution takes place to-day in spite of any system of 
* education,' in direct conflict with it, by resolute indi- 
vidual discarding of its influence, almost solely through 
the btoad-scattering of the printed page. 

It is unnecessary to dwell here upon an unspeakable 
absurdity so gross that it has become a recognized 
scandal currently commented upon. It may, however, 
not be out of place to point out that much of the 
criticism directed against it stultifies itself and lends 
a handle to the guardians of tradition, by setting up 
in opposition to its hieratic unrealities the ideal of a 
' utilitarian education.' 

It is reasonable and right that every man should with 
all available knowledge and training be fitted for the 
particular work he is intended to perform ; but that is 
not the first object of education. It is not in the 
proper sense education at all. The carpenter should be 
trained in carpentering, the doctor in medical science, 
the farmer in agriculture., But a man besides being 
a carpenter, a doctor, ox a farmer, is first and foremost 
a man. In addition to carpentering, or doctoring, or 
farming, in addition to having to deal with the problems 
of materials and construction, or of pathology, or of 
the chemistry of soils, he is confronted with the 
problems of life, with the problems of the living' world. 
In addition to being a working member in the division 
of the world's labour, he is a living mind., He is the 


heir of all the ages, of the complex organism of humanity 
through which the evolutionary process is moving; he 
has a right to his human inheritance, to the development 
of his powers to the full extent which that inheritance 
makes possible. He is the builder of the future and 
contributes as a citizen of humanity in his measure to 
its growth. Education is the imparting to every being 
of the means and methods of rational thought. 

Any adequate discussion of what such an organized 
transmission of human power to the rising generation 
would entail, would be out of proportion with our 
present purpose. I must leave the reader to conceive 
a real system of education which shall not be a subor- 
dinate side-track of human organization, but its chiefest, 
paramount sphere of action and endeavour; in which 
the growth of the child and the development of his 
mind shall take place, as the concern of the whole race, 
amid all the influences of healthfulness and beauty that 
human resource can devise; in which the schools shall 
be the temples, the palaces, the treasure-houses of the 
race, adorned with all that human art and wealth can 
lovingly lavish of beautiful and precious; in which the 
child shall be disciplined to health, to work, and to 
thought; in which he shall be -fitted with utmost 
efficiency for his appointed work, but shall first and 
foremost be fitted to be a man and a citizen of humanity ; 
in which the free development of his powers and judg- 
ment shall not be a drudgery, but a joy; in which his 
mind shall be taught and furnished with the data of 
competency through every avenue of the senses, by 
his life and surroundings, by pictorial art, collections, 
the theatre, the cinematograph, by music, by travel, 
by undogmatic spoken word, and unlimited access to 
books; in which he shall acquire by daily contact a 
first-hand acquaintance with most subjects and know- 
ledge of some, and, while his mind shall be trained in 
essentials and representative spheres, it shall not remain 
a stranger in any ; in which he may learn Greek prosody 
by all means if he be so minded, or it bears upon his 
life-work, but shall in any case learn the beauty of :he 
Greek spirit and its freedom, and something of the 



spirit and achievement of all the ages to which! he is 
the heir, what they have done for him, what they have 
bequeathed to his life ; in which' he shall learn something; 
of the world he lives in, behold its infinite greatness 
through the telescope, and its minute perfection through 
the microscope, learn something of what is known of 
life and its functions, behold the evolution of its forms ; 
of which a period of travel and an exchange with the 
children of other countries shall be a part, and' he 
shall learn Greek, if he chooses, in Greece, and French 
in France; in which representatives of all types of 
thought and opinion shall be free to place their inter- 
pretations before him, when he is old enough, and: hie 
shall be free to choose; in which his powers shall be 
exercised and tested by expression, debate, and dis- 
cussion among his 1 fellow-learners, and the debating- 
room shall be the examination hall, leading by continuous 
stages to the councils of citizens and of nations; in 
which, while he shall be provided for, fed, clothed and 
cared for on princely scale by the community of which 
he is the precious heir, he shall from 1 the first contribute 
his labour and take his share of work, shall be trained 
to discipline and endurance, as well as to joy and power ; 
in which work and the training of body and mind shall 
go hand in hand, and that training shall not end with 
any period of childhood, but shall be available and 
rendered desirable through life; in which the pupil 
shall become accustomed to the meanest task and to 
the highest thought; in which the only meaning of 
human equality shall be realized, equal opportunity of 
free development to all. 

To forecast the future growth of that human world, 
so rich as yet for all our bruised optimisms and 
defeated moods in potentialities and expatiating sap, 
is beside our present scope. Our concern has been 
to trace that growth in the past and to track through 
its gnarled and ragged form the mounting forces which 
have pushed, after all, ever lightward, creative in suffer- 
ing and in joy. Regarding those emancipations and 


renewals for which the world is loudly crying, and for 
which it appears ripe for the discordance of its thoughts 
with the bonds of its structure has reached a pitch 
of incompatibility beyond which nothing short of trans- 
formation appears possible one clear and emphatic 
lesson stands out above all others from our survey. 
Like every step of moment in past development, the 
successful consummation of present and coming efforts 
is conditional upon the mental equipment of humanity. 
In the phase which its evolutionary aims have reached 
the .first indispensable reform which must precede or 
accompany all others, if they are to be aught but stages 
in the long process of trial and failure, is an organized 
effort to provide for the handing down with untampering 
honesty the full measure of those powers which man 
has acquired, and to transmit them to the race. Failing 
such a provision troglodytism and mediaevalism must 
necessarily continue with us, and all attempts to shake 
off the dead hand of unburied evil must remain 
essentially ineffectual; and by such a provision alone 
more than half the goals to which humanity is dis- 
tractedly reaching out will ipso facto have been 

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